Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Grounding of Morality


Having been involved in many discussions with religionists on the topic of morality, I often hear claims that have no basis in reality.  It is particularly annoying when they arrogantly proclaim they hold a monopoly on morality, for example.  This is due to their belief that God is the source or the ground of all moral values.  Without God, they say, there could be no moral values and no moral behavior.  As with their belief in the existence of God, the idea that morality is dependent on God is not consistent with reality.

This belief manifests itself in different ways.  For one, there is a common attitude among religionists that atheists are bad people.  They are immoral, and they deserve no trust, and should not be allowed to hold any position of responsibility or public office.  For many Americans, atheists are the most reviled category of minority groups.  And this attitude is based in large part on the their belief that lack of religious belief implies a lack morality.

We see this hateful attitude expressed by religionists every day.  For example, this remark made to me:
Oh that's immoral, huh? I didn't know that you had any morals, IMS. You are an atheist. Morality isn't supposed to be a part of it for you. - JBsptfn
Of course, this is a trope that simply isn't true.  These people are unable or unwilling to observe the reality that atheists are certainly no worse than themselves in terms of adhering to ethical standards.  This has been shown in various studies.  And if people like JBsptfn were actually interested in knowing whether atheists think there is room for morality in an atheistic world-view, all they need to do is ask any atheist.  But let's not let facts get in the way of their ideological beliefs.

A somewhat more sophisticated belief of religionists is that all humans have a shared sense of morality, but it still comes to us from God.  Our fundamental moral values are supposedly "written on our hearts" as a reflection of God's law.  And this is their explanation for moral behavior in atheists.  It's just that atheists don't recognize where it comes from, according to these religionists.  So at least these religionists understand that an atheist can be moral without being religious.  That's something, I suppose.  But they still insist that atheists have no way to explain where their morality comes from.  And this notion is due, once again, to the belief that moral values come from God, as the arbiter of what is good and right.  Without this grounding in God, there would be no "ethical axioms", and basis to feel any sense of morality.

The first major problem with this view is that it assumes values exist apart from the mind that perceives them.  That's a Platonist assumption that is not consistent with naturalism.  Values are very much like beliefs.  They only exist in the mind.  I can say that something has value to me, but I can't say it has value to someone else.  That's for others to decide, and it depends on what is important to them.  What seems good to me may not seem good to everybody.  The idea that there are moral axioms is highly doubtful.

That's not to say that we humans don't share common values derived from our common heritage.  We need to live cooperatively in our society as a means of survival, and this has certainly shaped our evolutionary path.  It may in fact be fair to say that our fundamental moral values are "written on our hearts" in our genetic code, as a reflection of the history of our struggle to survive.  Here is a thoughtful article on the Biological Basis of Morality.  But it isn't the entirety of human morality.

We also get many of our moral beliefs and values from the circumstances of our lives.  That is to say they are learned.  Society provides many of the moral rules that we live by and believe in.  And societal values change.  What is right and good at one place and time may not be seen in the same light at another place and time.  This points out the second major flaw in the religionist's view of God as the ground of morality.  If God is the arbiter of good and bad, then why should human morals change along with societal influences?  Does God change his mind and write something different on our hearts from time to time?  This is something that religionists have no good answer for.

You might hear them say that people, and even whole societies, deviate from God's law.  But you will never hear them say that their own moral values deviate from God's law.  Take any moral issue about which religious people disagree.  On both sides, they will insist that God agrees with them, and not the other.  That's exactly what the Hebrews thought when they slaughtered the Canaanites, or when they took slaves.  Given that there is still considerable disagreement between religionists over many moral issues, how can they be so arrogant as to think that their own view is the one that God holds?  And that's what they all think.

But the naturalist view of morality doesn't suffer from that problem.  It recognizes that moral values are human values.  As for the question of what grounds those values, I would say that as the religionist believes he is responsible to God to comply with God's law, atheists tend to feel that they have a responsibility to their family and fellow man - to enhance well-being and happiness.  Or if not to society, they feel a responsibility to themselves, to make the most of their life according to their own values.

And if you think that this is not a solid basis for grounding your morality, it sure beats grounding it in something that doesn't exist.

17 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. you need an edit button. I need less Dyslexia.

      thanks for sharing that. There are a lot of slip sod half assed ideas on "both sides" that want to neatly sum up the"other side" with dismissive sweeping category. The whole idea of two advertorial sides is pat of the problem. I red flag that phrase 'religionists.' That is indicative of them vs us thinking.

      I studied with two top notch ethicists. One was Liberal theologian and a Christian In UMC school @ SMU (Fred Carney) and the other was an atheist @ UT Dallas (Victory Worsfold). Yes atheists can be good they can have sense of morality. All morality is from God because morality breaks down to love,and God is the basis of love. We love because we are created in God's image.

      It's a very simple proposition, you show me an atheist theory provides real grounding. I have not seen one yet that holds up. It's just a matter of philosophizing.

      Worsfold had studied for the priesthood and gave it up because he realized he was gay. He was one of my best professors and we were friends. He taught me that ethics is complex and it stacks up according to One's individual understanding it can't just be by wrote it's a world view. I don't blame atheists for thinking they have all the grounding they need. But I don't see a source of grounding that does it for me apart from God.That does not keep them from Being moral, it keeps them from explaining the justification for their ethics.

      Delete
    2. He taught me that ethics is complex and it stacks up according to One's individual understanding it can't just be by wrote it's a world view.
      - That is consistent with what I said: "moral values are human values." "they feel a responsibility to themselves, to make the most of their life according to their own values."

      But I don't see a source of grounding that does it for me apart from God.
      - If God doesn't exist (which is most likely the case), then you have no grounding at all. If you recognize that moral values are human values, rather than edicts from God, then your values have meaning to YOU. Which is better justification for your own behavior - something that has meaning to you, or something that (you think) has been dictated to you?

      Delete
  2. im-skepticalMarch 30, 2017 at 8:47 AM
    He taught me that ethics is complex and it stacks up according to One's individual understanding it can't just be by wrote it's a world view.
    - That is consistent with what I said: "moral values are human values." "they feel a responsibility to themselves, to make the most of their life according to their own values."

    But I dom't stop there,I feel taht te vlaues we hodl do not originate with us but with God as a natural extension of God's love.That is a stronger logical grounding than just human feelings alone.

    But I don't see a source of grounding that does it for me apart from God.
    - If God doesn't exist (which is most likely the case), then you have no grounding at all.

    That is begging the question,there is no reason I should assume that God does not exist,I can see why you would because you can't possibly know what I mean when I talk about experiencing God's presence. For those of us who have experienced that reality, however, we know it's real. There's no question. All the logic is just an attempt to clear away the clutter so you can seek.

    If you recognize that moral values are human values, rather than edicts from God, then your values have meaning to YOU.

    Meaning to you is not grounding, That's like building a house on sand.Anyone who comes along for whom those values hold different or no meaning there goes the foundation.


    Which is better justification for your own behavior - something that has meaning to you, or something that (you think) has been dictated to you?


    you misunderstand the concept. It's not a matter of dictated,it's meaningful to us because God put it there and made us to find it meaninglful.

    ReplyDelete
  3. you can't possibly know what I mean when I talk about experiencing God's presence. For those of us who have experienced that reality, however, we know it's real. There's no question.

    Joe, it's time to be a little more honest, and a little less arrogant. You DON'T know what you claim. You have a feeling inside, and that's the basis for your claims of certain knowledge. We've been over this before. This feeling is something we all have, to one degree or another. But some of us realize that it's a human emotion, and not necessarily the presence of God that we feel. Others ascribe this feeling to the beliefs that they have been indoctrinated with since they were babies. You don't know the difference between subjective feelings and objective knowledge. Time to grow up.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Joe, it's time to be a little more honest, and a little less arrogant. You DON'T know what you claim.

    you need to stop assuming you know e everything you do not know what I experienced,

    You have a feeling inside, and that's the basis for your claims of certain knowledge.

    No. It is not just a feeling inside, you knw nothing about it not the first thing.Your cynicism leads you to think you can judge the truthofexperiences you have not had.


    We've been over this before. This feeling is something we all have, to one degree or another.

    nope that is just your only means of dismissing it, I used to think too before I had it.

    But some of us realize that it's a human emotion, and not necessarily the presence of God that we feel.

    You assume so because you don't want to obey God. the truth is you have no idea what you are talking about,you are just clutching at straws and making uninformed assumptions because you have no other ansser,,

    Others ascribe this feeling to the beliefs that they have been indoctrinated with since they were babies. You don't know the difference between subjective feelings and objective knowledge. Time to grow up.

    I disprove that statement in the book with empirical data.First of all I was not indoctrinated into any belief in feelings,I grew up in the Christi of Christ, we denied feelings. We were taught that feelings didn't matter and all that did matter was objective data and exegesis.

    That fits with the data from my research because most people who have mystical pertinence find that part of it contradicts cherished doctrine,so that disproves your nonsense that it's conditioned by teaching.

    Secondly your understanding of objectivity is pathetic, because clinging to it as a shelf to protect you from angry God is nothing but what C Wright Mills called 'hiding behind the cloak of objectivity."you are stuck in the subject/object dichotomy.That is an outmoded way of looking at truth.


    Reply

    ReplyDelete
  5. you are afraid of your feelings.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's a real fallacy in your thinking to suppose that the whole edifice of belief can be based upon one experience or one set of little feelings. The journey from atheism to belief is a a paradigm shift and those only happen when the former paradigm can no longer adsorb the anomalies. So the shift is made up of thousands of little anomalies.Those can be feelings, experiences, or facts, or arguments and probably all of the above. There are arguments and assumptions that are as important as road sings for me as the feelings of mystical experience that I speak about. It all comes together to from a life. The direction of the life has been moving toward knowing God.


    your anger and reseentment keep you from hearing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No. It is not just a feeling inside, you knw nothing about it not the first thing.Your cynicism leads you to think you can judge the truthofexperiences you have not had.
      - Sorry, but there are plenty of ex-Christians who know EXACTLY what you're talking about. Not to mention those studies you love to cite. They all tell us that this is a common HNUMAN experience.

      You assume so because you don't want to obey God. the truth is you have no idea what you are talking about,you are just clutching at straws and making uninformed assumptions because you have no other ansser
      - You're the one who ignores the information available to all of us, if we care to listen.

      I grew up in the Christi of Christ, we denied feelings. We were taught that feelings didn't matter and all that did matter was objective data and exegesis.
      - So, you think that's what they teach young atheists, huh? Bullshit. Feelings don't matter?. Joe, your view is distorted. Feelings are very much part of the human experience. The difference between you and me is that I recognize the difference between subjective and objective.

      you are afraid of your feelings.
      - The only thing I'm afraid of is people who use their bullshit to re-make reality for the rest of us.

      It's a real fallacy in your thinking to suppose that the whole edifice of belief can be based upon one experience or one set of little feelings.
      - That's your claim, not mine. You're the one who keeps going on about this "experience" that I supposedly know nothing about.

      Delete

  7. No. It is not just a feeling inside, you knw nothing about it not the first thing.Your cynicism leads you to think you can judge the truthofexperiences you have not had.
    - Sorry, but there are plenty of ex-Christians who know EXACTLY what you're talking about. Not to mention those studies you love to cite. They all tell us that this is a common HNUMAN experience.

    Do you not get the concept of begging the question? If you have to have a spacial experience to know something just saying you had it does not prove you did. yes there are atheists who did not really understand and were not born again so no surprise they fell away, then they assert that it was nothing because it was nothing to them. That is not proof.

    this is why the M scale matters. It proves what a mystical experience is. you have no example of an atheist who scored high on the M scale and verifies your argument.


    You assume so because you don't want to obey God. the truth is you have no idea what you are talking about,you are just clutching at straws and making uninformed assumptions because you have no other ansser

    - You're the one who ignores the information available to all of us, if we care to listen.

    That is horse shit! i spe t seven years researched evidence you wont touch, you wont try to read one study with an open mind and I researched 200 studies.

    I grew up in the Christi of Christ, we denied feelings. We were taught that feelings didn't matter and all that did matter was objective data and exegesis.

    - So, you think that's what they teach young atheists, huh? Bullshit. Feelings don't matter?. Joe, your view is distorted.

    Get a grip.Of course i don;t think they sit atheists down and says "now be afraid of feelings." But there are ways to communicate fear,without saying it overtly.

    Not all atheists fear feelings. But there are tons of atheists who are afraid of any kind of feelings. I've debated thousands,I've done over a million posts on the net in 16 years and that's thousands of opponents. stop the Bull shit, you can't con me, I was an atheist weather you like it or not and I've argued with thousands of them.


    Feelings are very much part of the human experience. The difference between you and me is that I recognize the difference between subjective and objective.

    No you don;t you are laboring under a false understanding of the subject object dichotomy. Your refusal to understand how scientific method can get around the subjectivity barrier in study of experience that shows you are afraid to think feelings. You are hiding behind the cloak of objectivity, it;s a smoke screen for your subjective likes and dislikes.



    - The only thing I'm afraid of is people who use their bullshit to re-make reality for the rest of us.

    that's why we use an empirical scale in the study of mystical experience you are the one who is using emotions and feelings like your anger toward God as a basis for your position then using the mask of the objective as a smoke screen to hide the emotional basis of yor view.

    It's a real fallacy in your thinking to suppose that the whole edifice of belief can be based upon one experience or one set of little feelings.
    - That's your claim, not mine. You're the one who keeps going on about this "experience" that I supposedly know nothing about.


    Bottom line: I have 200 studies you do not have a single study that disproves anything I say. you try to muddle and distort the they way I use the studies and their value to counter My argument because you have no empirical basis for answering it.

    all your brave talk about objectivity is just hot air. you are not objective about belief in God.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you have to have a spacial experience to know something just saying you had it does not prove you did. yes there are atheists who did not really understand and were not born again so no surprise they fell away
      - Sorry, Joe. I am not begging the question. YOU don't understand. You don't understand the difference between something that is objectively real and something that is a FEELING you have inside. This is a question of how we can know the things we are claiming. It doesn't matter how SPECIAL this feeling is. You think you know what causes it, but you have no objective backing - no corroboration - for your claims.

      this is why the M scale matters. It proves what a mystical experience is.
      - Pseudo-scientific bullshit. It doesn't prove anything. The M-scale was designed to weed out non-religious interpretations of an experience that is common to all humans. That's called cherry-picking. But even if it didn't do that, it still tells us NOTHING about what causes these experiences.

      i spe t seven years researched evidence you wont touch, you wont try to read one study with an open mind and I researched 200 studies.
      - You're lying, Joe. You showed me some of them, and I read them. I know for a fact that you ignore what these studies say that doesn't support your thesis. Maybe your cognitive bias is so strong that you don't even know you're skipping over the parts you don't like.

      Not all atheists fear feelings. But there are tons of atheists who are afraid of any kind of feelings. I've debated thousands,I've done over a million posts on the net in 16 years and that's thousands of opponents.
      - You are terribly confused. I don't know any human being who is afraid of feelings. But what is true of these atheists is that they know how to tell the difference between logic-based rational argumentation and emotionally-driven mumbo-jumbo.

      Your refusal to understand how scientific method can get around the subjectivity barrier in study of experience that shows you are afraid to think feelings. You are hiding behind the cloak of objectivity, it;s a smoke screen for your subjective likes and dislikes.
      - If I ever see you demonstrate an understanding of scientific method, you will have earned the right to lecture me on it. Cherry-picking information from a bunch of studies to conclude something that those studies don't support is not science, and it doesn't prove anything except the level of your own bias.

      that's why we use an empirical scale in the study of mystical experience you are the one who is using emotions and feelings like your anger toward God as a basis for your position then using the mask of the objective as a smoke screen to hide the emotional basis of yor view.
      - The M-scale confirms your bias by weeding out any responses that would lead to a different conclusion. Talk about a smoke screen.

      Bottom line: I have 200 studies you do not have a single study that disproves anything I say.
      - Bottom line: You have pseudo-science and nothing more. It's bullshit, Joe.

      Delete
  8. - You are terribly confused. I don't know any human being who is afraid of feelings. But what is true of these atheists is that they know how to tell the difference between logic-based rational argumentation and emotionally-driven mumbo-jumbo.

    >>>then you are extremely unobservant, I think you are beng dishonest either with me orwith yourself,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What I observe is that people like you are certain of your beliefs beyond any rational justification. I observe that you go yo great lengths to try to justify what you believe rather than evaluating whether it is correct to believe it in the first place. When you take that approach, you are bound to be side-tracked by bias.

      And please don't give me this crap about being an ex-atheist. You were never an atheist. You were indoctrinated into religious belief. You may have turned away from it for a time, but you returned to the fold, precisely because the indoctrination was too strong to overcome. The truth is that there was never a time when you didn't believe.

      Delete
  9. It's so laughable to see atheists trying to pull "you were not a true atheist" like a Calvinist saying you are not in the elect. At other times you will say there is no true atheism. You say there is no ideology no code of belief to live up to so what doe it mean to say one is not a true atheist?

    If you say it means I really secretly never stopped believing in God, well you never did either, you secretly believe.

    Bu yes there was a time when I did not believe in God. I don't care what you say I know it's true and you can't change it. Every time you say that you convince me all the more that you are running from the realty you know is there. You can't face the truth that God is real and he can get through to atheists you have no excuse.

    when you deny my atheism you just tell me that the fact of my conversion has a profound effect upon you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so laughable to see atheists trying to pull "you were not a true atheist" like a Calvinist saying you are not in the elect. At other times you will say there is no true atheism. You say there is no ideology no code of belief to live up to so what doe it mean to say one is not a true atheist?
      - How very Trumpian of you. Divert and dissemble. You have a knack for changing the topic and igoring what I said. I didn't say anything about "true atheists". I said you were never an atheist. And I'm right.

      If you say it means I really secretly never stopped believing in God, well you never did either, you secretly believe.
      - In your dreams. Don't project your superstitious mindset on me. I don't buy it. Nor do I harbor a hidden core of belief.

      Bu yes there was a time when I did not believe in God. I don't care what you say I know it's true and you can't change it. Every time you say that you convince me all the more that you are running from the realty you know is there. You can't face the truth that God is real and he can get through to atheists you have no excuse.
      - You lie to yourself, and then accuse me of the same thing. Sorry, Joe. I'm not guilty of YOUR sin.

      Delete
  10. Joe HinmanMarch 31, 2017 at 4:10 AM

    "Meaning to you is not grounding, That's like building a house on sand."
    Too bad, we live on such sand. Learn to deal with it.


    "Anyone who comes along for whom those values hold different or no meaning there goes the foundation."
    Yep, tough luck for us.

    Grow up and figure it out as best as you can individually and through communication and as much mutual agreement as you are capable of.

    Stop acting like a little child crying to your imaginary friend for help. Your sky daddy isn't grounding, it is just an immature fantasy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, if God doesn't exist then the world wouldn't match my fantasy view of reality.

      Duh.

      Delete