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Do Absolute Morals Exist Without God?


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Do absolute/objective morals exist without God? I hear this idea verbalized by Christians quite often - the concept that without an outside objective moral law giver, all morality becomes subjective to the individuals and cultures laying down the social rules. By this standard they argue, we have no basis by which to say that what Hitler and the Germans who collaborated with him, were wrong for what they did. All we have are our own subjective views on genocide with which to judge them, but since the people of Hitler's day thought they were doing a good thing by purifying their race, they were not really guilty of any wrongdoing.

 

It is my view that societies establish rules of co-existence and that from there comes the determination of what is harmful and what is helpful to individuals and to the whole. My question is therefore: are Christian correct? Is morality always subjective and relative to each culture and individual? If I determine that something isn't wrong to me (case of a psychopath perhaps), then am I truly in the right, or am I merely made guilty by the consensus of the whole? And when the whole is racist, homophobic, sexist, genocidal, or otherwise immoral, do these values only exist in the eye of the modern beholder projecting his or her society's values upon them? Did Martin Luther King's values and actions only become right when the majority agreed with him?

 

Has any atheist thinker/author/speaker dealt with this topic in any depth? I'd love recommendations as well as your personal thoughts on the matter. In the 2008 VCU debate between Turek and Hitchens, Turek raises this question http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNvW0u3uq2A&t=4m40s (4:40 - 6:00) and Hitchens never adequately responds. The point is raised again in the Q&A http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI5GWfaEJcA&t=5m6s (at 5:06 - 9:51) that "while there may be chemical components in the brain responding to emotions like 'love' or 'empathy' that doesn't make those things RIGHT, or GOOD." In a materialistic world-view, claims Hurek, where we're all chemicals, there's no basis for saying that any of these chemical responses are right or good." Again, I don't hear Hitchens offering a satisfying response.

 

Thanks for your thoughts.

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Guest Valk0010

I think Chomsky pointed out the flaw in the absolute morality arguement the best.

 

 

1:52-2:20

 

I don't see how, belief in god, could make murder any more wrong or right. It just sort of is what it is.

 

I find failure in the absolute moral arguement because it also doesn't fit to the world we know.

 

The murder of abortion doctors(touchy subject with you for different reasons but this isn't for starting abortion debate) is considered wrong by most people even christians. But these extreme nut variations on the right to life movement consider themselves to be doing what god wants. Female genital mutilation is another one, most people think its wrong, but these small group of people think its godly.

 

In a world of objective morality, would we actually need to have these discussions.

 

Saying morality is objective does not account for moral variety.

 

I do say however morally does have a general objective basis but has a very open ended interpretation.

 

The idea of not harming others is more or less universal to ethics.

 

And that is where we make most ethical decisions from.

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Guest Valk0010

Another thing, why have the debate over what is or is not objective moral values, when you have secular ethical systems that do fairly well in helping people make moral desicons.

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Morals aren't absolute with or without God. Read the Bible; the God character in that book is all over the map with his "morality."

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Do absolute/objective morals exist without God? I hear this idea verbalized by Christians quite often - the concept that without an outside objective moral law giver, all morality becomes subjective to the individuals and cultures laying down the social rules. By this standard they argue, we have no basis by which to say that what Hitler and the Germans who collaborated with him, were wrong for what they did. All we have are our own subjective views on genocide with which to judge them, but since the people of Hitler's day thought they were doing a good thing by purifying their race, they were not really guilty of any wrongdoing.

Christian apologists can never establish that their version of God is actually objective.

All they ever do is special plead that whatever their God does, it must be holy and good because their God can, by definition, never do anything unholy.

Their basis for morality rests on a foundation of special pleading that uses circular logic to validate itself.

 

Mass extermination and aggressive expansion were practiced by God's chosen people and were ordered by the Bible God.

This God also used other nations to punish his people when they displeased him.

Based on the evidence provided by the Bible, the Hitler experience can easily be justified as moral.

God was using Hitler to carry out his bigger plan.

Let the apologist prove otherwise.

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Morals aren't absolute with or without God. Read the Bible; the God character in that book is all over the map with his "morality."

 

Absolute morals from the Bible: Like if I rape a woman then she becomes my property for life but I owe her father 50 ounces of silver? Or if we attack a city in another country after we kill every man woman and child we must kill their sheep and donkeys as well? And what if I don't want to marry my brother's widow and/or she doesn't want to marry me?

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There's nothing absolute about the human experience. What do we get from absolute morals? A bunch of rules that we all break, for which we will be eternally punished? That's doesn't seems very constructive to me.

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Guest Babylonian Dream

In a world of absolute morality, killing adolf hitler and lying to someone unattractive telling them they're cute are both immoral. I don't think I want to live in a world with absolute morality or absolute anything else for that matter. I like my subjective morality anyway. Besides, biblical morality is even more subjective than western secular morality anyway.

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I don't think morals are absolute either. Something is wrong or right by the consensus of society. When societies "clash" over what is right or wrong, change occurs and a new claim of what is wrong or right begins to dominate.

 

I think there are some moral truths that can loosely be called "universal" because humans generally share a common set of desires : personal safety, health, and wholeness, economic viability and sex/intimacy to one degree or another.

 

I think the moral world of 1000 years from now will be shockingly different from the world we live in now. Because moral truth changes and is not based on anything more than the dynamic, often inconsistent and transient consensus of the whole.

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I don't know of anything that is absolute, especially morals with or without a god. People know that to do wrong, commit evil acts, to others hurts society, causes disruption of the common good, which is peace. The govt. tries to control our morals by passing political laws that only protect religious beliefs of morality. The more 'moral' a society, the more corrupt it becomes. More laws = more crime because those who did not commit crime before a law was passed are now criminals after the law is passed. What is 'moral'? Morality is objective because people have their own ideas concering morality. If I help out a person in need because I believe it to be a moral thing to do and someone does not help out a person in need because they feel it is the moral thing to do-make a person work whether physically able or not-- is that person immoral for not showing compassion? In my opinion, yes. In his, no. Religious people have no common ground on morals either because they all view morality from their own point of view as well. Some Christians are caring individuals and others could care less. Morals are a personal belief in what you do is the right thing to do. Christians or other religious people do not have a monopoly on justice or what is the common good for society. It takes a group to establish the common good and in some cases force compliance to uphold the common good. Common Law was the way in which we kept society running before political laws forced common law into antiquity and forced us to be moral according to political rhetoric rather than individuality. Personal morals, IMO, are the only way in which one person can help others. Forced compliance of morals causes discord and the common good becomes meaningless.

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In a world of absolute morality, killing adolf hitler and lying to someone unattractive telling them they're cute are both immoral. I don't think I want to live in a world with absolute morality or absolute anything else for that matter. I like my subjective morality anyway. Besides, biblical morality is even more subjective than western secular morality anyway.

 

Yeah but in a world of subjective morality, majority sets the social rules and the minority is wrong. That means Martin Luther King and other civil right activists were wrong to mess with status quo, and if they'd never stepped up, slavery and segregation would be perfectly moral today.

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In a world of absolute morality, killing adolf hitler and lying to someone unattractive telling them they're cute are both immoral. I don't think I want to live in a world with absolute morality or absolute anything else for that matter. I like my subjective morality anyway. Besides, biblical morality is even more subjective than western secular morality anyway.

 

Yeah but in a world of subjective morality, majority sets the social rules and the minority is wrong. That means Martin Luther King and other civil right activists were wrong to mess with status quo, and if they'd never stepped up, slavery and segregation would be perfectly moral today.

 

It is because we live in a world of subjective morality that MLK made breakthroughs in the 60's and slavery ended a hundred years before that. As we grow wiser we reform our view on morality.

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Guest Babylonian Dream

In a world of absolute morality, killing adolf hitler and lying to someone unattractive telling them they're cute are both immoral. I don't think I want to live in a world with absolute morality or absolute anything else for that matter. I like my subjective morality anyway. Besides, biblical morality is even more subjective than western secular morality anyway.

 

Yeah but in a world of subjective morality, majority sets the social rules and the minority is wrong. That means Martin Luther King and other civil right activists were wrong to mess with status quo, and if they'd never stepped up, slavery and segregation would be perfectly moral today.

Not really, wrong in the eyes of some? Yes. There's no doubt people such as the KKK thought what he was doing was wrong. There is to be no doubt that many thought that freeing the slaves was wrong. That doesn't mean the minority view is wrong.

 

Also, there were those that thought what he was doing was right, just like with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and others. Their views were more favorable eventually and won out. Sure it could've gone the other way, and its a good thing it did, because I'd be in the minority in thinking segregation and slavery are wrong.

 

Also, the majority of this world thinks that eternal damnation for finite sins is moral, that makes us still a minority. That doesn't make us wrong, I'm not saying that consensus morality is the one true morality. I'm saying that its how morality is defined. Like it or not (I don't like it, but to me, its just reality), its how it works.

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In a world of absolute morality, killing adolf hitler and lying to someone unattractive telling them they're cute are both immoral. I don't think I want to live in a world with absolute morality or absolute anything else for that matter. I like my subjective morality anyway. Besides, biblical morality is even more subjective than western secular morality anyway.

 

Yeah but in a world of subjective morality, majority sets the social rules and the minority is wrong. That means Martin Luther King and other civil right activists were wrong to mess with status quo, and if they'd never stepped up, slavery and segregation would be perfectly moral today.

 

That would be mob rule, but you do raise an interesting question regarding the shaping of morality. Why is there a higher morality than consensus requires? In my book, I've reduced morality to "don't hurt others." In this case, mobs supporting segregation supported hurting others. MLK supported equality, which compliments the rule.

 

Even here there can be no absolutes, however, as you are going to find yourselves in situations where a utilitarian solution is necessary; i.e., harming the least amount of people.

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In my book, I've reduced morality to "don't hurt others."

Yeah. That's a very concise definition. The difference is what people mean with "hurt" and "others" though.

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In my book, I've reduced morality to "don't hurt others."

Yeah. That's a very concise definition. The difference is what people mean with "hurt" and "others" though.

 

It gets really sticky when you start trying to protect others from harm too. Drugs are bad, M'kay?

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1st question : what is moral?

 

2nd question : what is absolute moral?

 

3rd question : what is absolute moral of the bible or bible god?

 

examples?

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Well, some Christians manage to come up with the concept of absolute morals and advocate the use of them. BUT, the results of what they typically advocate are horrific.

 

Prime example would be that because it is always wrong to kill, then killing Hitler would have been wrong. Likewise, the right to lifers that would advocate saving a baby's life at the expense of the mother's life will almost certainly be advocating some moral absolute. God knows what that absolute is - it's certainly beyond my comprehension.

 

I remember studying the issue of morality in psychology at uni and they talked about a guy called Laurence Kohlberg and six levels of moral functioning. Can't remember if Christianity ever got a specific mention. But the black-and-white rule based approach was right down there at the bottom of the pile. However, it was above "do the right thing because you'll be caught out and punished". Long time ago - early eighties.

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Guest wester

This seems to me to be a hangup on the "Laws" of the Old Testament. And that seems to be the self-justifying basis of the argument for the "religion / social / moral laws". Sort of like we would all be doomed without Hamurabi's code.

 

China had (Confucian) "laws" concerning social / moral conduct for centuries before the bible, and there was no mention of Mr. gawd or religion in any of them.

 

Really, it would be so convenient for much of the western point of view if China had never existed.

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I think most humans will agree on common sense rules like no murder, no stealing, etc. In this we have a "moral compass" that comes from living in a social community. We know doing the right thing is good for our social group, and also that following the rules helps prevent others from doing the same things to us. The golden rule is a huge part of how people follow morals. There is of course some altruism too, and Dawkins explains that well with the selfish gene.

 

Of course, these rules aren't cut in stone. Most people will say it's ok to kill another person in self-defense, or to steal food from a rich man if you're starving, etc.

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An interesting example of how society enforces morality (skip to 5 minutes in):

 

 

In Japan, it is rude to use a cell phone on the train or a bus and they let you know.

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An interesting example of how society enforces morality (skip to 5 minutes in):

. . .

 

In Japan, it is rude to use a cell phone on the train or a bus and they let you know.

 

Interesting example indeed!

 

I can see where a cell phone on public transit can approach being a moral issue, especially in highly condensed populations like Japan. If everybody had to put up with noisy electronic beeps and tones during their morning commute it would be maddening. It's a real "do unto others . . ." example.

 

But this also seems to linger on the edge of mere custom. In the US people will use their cells on public transit. In Japan they don't. In other countries they may or may not.

 

So, what is the difference between a custom that is practiced in various locals and an actual moral issue? I guess the concepts can overlap. But it's not always clear to me where customary practises ("put the salad fork here and the spoon there," "Belch to show the host you are pleased with the meal.") and moral issues begin ("make sure to disclose if you have a conflict of interest with the company with which you're trying to win a contract.").

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