dave_littler (dave_littler) wrote,

Subjective Morality

I’ve had a thought rumbling around in my head in recent months – a product of one of my occasional and innumerable hypothetical debates with theists – which a post this morning on the atheist community prompted me to begin to formulate more textually.

It runs along similar lines to a lot of my thoughts on this topic (which you can view as pedantry, consistency or some combination thereof), and deals with the question of secular morality versus theistic morality.

One of the charges which we atheists frequently have leveled against us is that, in the absence of any kind of supreme being to dictate and arbitrate morality, there can be no true morality, and that as such, we atheists must by our very nature be amoral beings. These charges then often become wild and fanciful, assigning to us a desire to rape, murder and steal at whim, since apparently in the minds of these christians, taking part in these sorts activities is a good path to a happy and fulfilling life (which invokes the usual question of whether these are the sorts of things THEY would like to be doing, but feel restrained from indulging in merely because of their fear of hell, and furthermore what that says about them).

This has always rung somewhat hollow to me, as it may not surprise you to learn, and one of various reasons why has lately become clear to me.

If you or I (or indeed some third party not taking part in this discussion) somehow had the ability to drown the entire world, and decided, because we were displeased with the general moral character of the peoples of the world, to go ahead and do so (whether or not we decided to spare a small family of middle easterners in the process), we would be guilty of an unspeakable evil. The christian god is purported, in christian (and indeed Jewish, and I presume Islamic) mythology to have done precisely this and precisely for these reasons. He, however, is reckoned by the proponents of this mythology, to have been good for having done so.

The reason behind this has nothing to do with the act itself, but rather the person (or entity or what have you) doing it. Any and all acts performed by this being – even if they would be evil if performed by anyone else -–are automatically rendered “good” simply because of who he is. So goes the mythology, anyways. If this were true, then it seems to me that morality becomes entirely meaningless; situational and subjective. The term “good” holds no more meaning, in that an evil act can be “good” simply because of the person (entity, whatever) performing it.

In a world without such an entity to distort and deform morality, we’re all on a level playing field, and can make meaningful moral judgements based upon whether or not our acts are selfish, destructive or harmful to those around us.

In a world with such a being, morality is just a hodge-podge of personal biases and whims of an obviously-deranged and capricious monster, who rules the universe in an indifferent and haphazard manner, while claiming absolute moral authority over everything while doing so.

Christians ask me how we can have true morality without their second-hand, bronze age, middle eastern tribal deity. I ask them in return: How could we have true morality WITH such an entity?
Tags: atheism, christianity, culture, judaism, religion

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