General Question

augustlan's avatar

Morality without religion?

Asked by augustlan (46609 points ) July 29th, 2008

There is a school of thought that there would be no morality without religion. Agree or disagree, and why?

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147 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I disagree. Religion is one type of ethical and moral code. There are plenty of others. The military has an ethics code, many professional organizations do. Humans can conceive of moral and ethical behavior separate from religion.

PupnTaco's avatar

Disagree. First, I don’t need religion to know right from wrong. Second, religion is no guarantee of ethical behavior – in fact, we’ve seen some of the worst come from those who “believe.”

lefteh's avatar

Disagree. Simply because I am a moral person, and I am not a religious person.

augustlan's avatar

I’m with you all, but some believe that all morals are inherently based on religion, whether we ourselves are religious, or not. Had a debate about this today, and won :)

syz's avatar

I am an atheist and I consider myself a moral person.

augustlan's avatar

My argument was that morals were a function of survival for mankind, long before religion came into play. “We have to get along in order to stay alive.” If not, we’d have died out a long time ago.

mrjadkins's avatar

Do children understand religion or have the concept of religious faith when they learn right from wrong? What about people who live in indigenous cultures? They may not have a religious background but do they have a moral code?

I am a christian and I believe a person can be moral or have morals without religion. I believe people know good from bad choices. As a christian, I have faith but I also question my belief system and my faith daily (ok, hourly – I work in education! ;)). In times when I don’t have faith, I don’t lose my morals. I still know the difference.

TheHaight's avatar

I agree with mrjadkins.
I believe you can have both.. Or one or the other. Being Catholic, I know a lot of other Catholics that have no morals at all… Just like any other religion. I think having morals can just come naturally to people (not all) and religion is something you are brought up into, or learn about later on in life..

augustlan's avatar

I’m more or less a spiritual person, born a christian, but don’t adhere to any religion. I believe in God (most of the time!) but feel religion per se is man-made. I consider myself to be a moral person.

aaronou's avatar

Can a moral code not simply be defined as inner religion though? I mean, many seem to hold the belief that morality is something instinctively or naturally known. If this is the case, is that not more of an indication that we are all born religious? I think we need a better distinction here between natural religion, which seems to me to be identical to morality, and institutional religion, which is what man has created in response to their spiritual search.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

I think where people get confused is, yes you can have morals without religion. However the question is, would we have morals if it were not for religion. I guess this is kind of like a chicken or the egg type of question… I think though it is difficult to have morals and have people adhere to them in the begining if people didnt have some higher power to answer too. but thats just me thinking for about 5 minutes on it.

augustlan's avatar

@ aar interesting concept, but I definitely meant institutional religion.

marinelife's avatar

@aaronou No, the two are quite distinct. Religions concern themselves with explaining the great questions. What are we here? What happens when we die? Is there a way to cheat death? Most do have moral codes, but moral codes do not necessarily have religions.

augustlan's avatar

@Lkid I see where you’re going with the chicken/egg scenario, but, consider this: 20 cavemen, with no morals…1 kills off every other one that annoys him in some way. That last one now has no one to help hunt or fend off danger, so he dies, too. The end. Now, a nearby group of 20 cavemen has observed all this, and 15 have taken it to heart. One of their members starts killing off the people that annoy him. The 15 stop him, in order to preserve the life of the community. I think this is how morals began. ...more…

megalongcat's avatar

Disagree. A person doesn’t need religion for morals. There are plenty of places without religion where people grow up just fine with a set of morals.

aaronou's avatar

@Marina – Have you never asked those questions that you just referred to? I would say anyone who has lived long enough asks questions of that degree in some form or fashion. And this is why I was making a distinction between natural religion, which I believe no one is exempt from, and institutional religion. If you want to understand more of what I mean by natural religion I suggest you look up David Hume’s “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion”. You could probably find a good summary online.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

well yeah, morals was probably an evolution thing for sure, but they also say that religion was an evolutional thing too, so i dunno lol

augustlan's avatar

As communities grow, and the “fittest” (cooperative) survive, this knowledge gets passed down. As time goes on, Joe Caveman, on a whim, gives Susie Cavewoman an extra serving of meat. She returns the favor, by giving him a backrub. They both feel good. This is observed and passed on, etc. Sometime much later, a leader needs his people to listen to him and they are unwilling. So he says “God” says you must do it this way. But the rules (morals) didn’t come from God, they were already in place in the leader.

aaronou's avatar

Clearly morality has a need to exist apart from institutional religion. If this were not so, the core of much of institutional religion could have never developed. There must be an idea before there is an ideology.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

yeah but the thing is, humans probably started believing in some kind of god before the concept of morals. they probably knew what was good and what wasnt right, but a concept of morality probably didnt really exist, not until after religoin

augustlan's avatar

doesn’t matter what they called it, just that they did it. Long before the concept of religion came about. Belief in God or gods, in the beginning, probably had no moral rules attached. Just a way to explain what they didn’t understand.

augustlan's avatar

Religions come with rules about morality. The morality already existed, is my argument.

chaosrob's avatar

I practice morality without religion every day. My moral framework is based in the idea that it is generally more desireable to create or preserve something than to destroy something. The rest basically derives from corrolaries to that one idea. It’s not perfect, but it’s been a useful guide so far.

tinyfaery's avatar

Apes practice cooperation; Meerkats practice altruism. I’m fairly sure there is no religion involved.

chaosrob's avatar

Morals are just instincts and evolutionary programming elevated to the status of taboos. It’s amoral to steal and destroy because that behavior was once a counter-survival trait. We’ve added on some bits to address more complex situations, but the basic core is just Darwin.

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

I think anyone who will tell you that the only moral person is a religious one is someone who is fanatical (or at borderline) and, in my experience, a gigantic hypocrite.

btko's avatar

I tend to agree…

Morality is religion, religion is morality.
I don’t follow a religion and am have morals, but the question is do morals stem from religion. I think they do.

Secularism is quite new in the history of humans… I think around 13th century. It’s human nature to equate moral judgement with religious thoughts.

lefteh's avatar

@btko: Who exactly are you agreeing with?

btko's avatar

oh.. at the stated question. :p

lefteh's avatar

Ahhh. That makes sense :D
Silly me.

tinyfaery's avatar

religion = morality? Church scandals happen all the time. Pedophilia, infidelity, economic corruption, etc., is in no way moral.

btko's avatar

@tinyfaery… but church does not have to equal religion. A person not following the morality of a religion does not point to a flaw in the morality…

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

@btko

I will have to respectfully disagree. I find it hard to believe that with so many of the same acts being social taboos (theft, murder, etc.) all around the world that morals stem from religion. It’s just too big of a coincidence for me.

tinyfaery's avatar

But, the church proselytizes in the name of religion. There is no religion without some sort of hierarchy/institution and place of worship. Religion is made up of the people who create and follow it. Therefore, people are the religion. Fallible people = fallible religion; immoral religious people = immoral religion; morality alone does not constitute a religion.

If I call myself a Christian (which I don’t), and ascribe to Christian morality, and I commit murder, for instance, does my religion = morality?

augustlan's avatar

@chaos…my point exactly, and more succinctly (sp?) said.

btko's avatar

@MrMeltedCrayon (great name.. haha) That is where I am getting my thoughts from though… in the idea that religion is an intrinsic part of humanity, thus morality is as well.

and @ tinyfaery
I think one problem is people use Christianity synonymously with religion. I couldn’t agree more with the faults in Christianity… i’m thinking of religion as a whole… religion as an element inherent within us. Religion doesn’t have to mean church on sundays, repenting your sins, etc.

marinelife's avatar

@btko That is not religion “a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny; “he lost his faith but not his morality”
#an institution to express belief in a divine power; “he was raised in the Baptist religion”; “a member of his own faith contradicted him” ”. It is spirituality “The state, quality, manner, or fact of being spiritual.”.

allengreen's avatar

Is religion immoral? How many have been killed by, discriminated against, pushed down by religion? How does religion contribute to morality?

–noun,1. conformity to the rules of right conduct;—-I see no connection between religion and morality .

Good thought provoking question.

lefteh's avatar

“How many have been killed by, discriminated against, pushed down by religion?”

Me, me, me!

allengreen's avatar

When I meet a “Religious” person, I am bound to hear that they are religious against someone or something, ie, against folks of different persuasions or races ect…....Or a tool of a political persuasion——for sure Religious to me means “immoral.”

btko's avatar

That’s true Marina if you focus on those specific definitions.. but there are more definitions for both. For example:

Spirituality: “of or relating to religion or religious belief”
Religion: ” a particular system of faith and worship”

An Atheist follows the religion of Atheism. An Atheist “faith” is their belief in no God.

augustlan's avatar

Atheists do NOT follow any religion. The only thing they must have in common is not believing in God. Once that’s out of the way, there is no religion to follow. No rules to follow or anyone (or thing) to worship.

marinelife's avatar

@btko Now you are arguing semantics. Many atheists would not characterize their non-acceptance of a deity as a religion. I would not either.

btko's avatar

If a persons beliefs are based on faith what would you call that?

augustlan's avatar

It’s not based on faith, it’s based on a lack thereof.

lefteh's avatar

My beliefs are not based on faith.

If it were up to me, there wouldn’t even be a label for my beliefs. Unfortunately, there is, and it is atheism. I have no faith in my belief that there is no god. It is not as if I am subscribing to a school of thought by being an atheist. Conversely, I am not subscribing to the school of thought believing that there is indeed a god.

btko's avatar

Marina… I’m arguing semantics? Did you not do the same? I don’t get it…

btko's avatar

@lefteh, could you clarify a bit? You have no faith in your belief? I just want to make sure I understand where you are coming from.

You believe there is no god. Why do you believe that.

(Just to set my beliefs on the table, I would be labelled an agnostic.. anything is possible)

lefteh's avatar

Here is the difference in thought that we are having:

It seems to me that you are considering the belief in God a yes or no question that every human is posed with. I do not view it that way. I view the belief in God as something that someone can approach and accept if they so choose. It is not as if I have actively chosen to believe that there is no god. I have simply not accepted the belief in God, as many others have, the same way I am not a Yankees fan or a vegetarian.

btko's avatar

mmm I see. That’s interesting. Great Answer

I think what you describe is different though… Atheism is the theory and or belief that God does not exist. It isn’t an abstract idea. It’s a firm belief. As firm as the belief for some that God does exist. If a person doesn’t consider God, the Yankees, or Vegetarianism at all in any way shape or form that is something different.

I am basing my thoughts on the accepted definition of Atheism.

btko's avatar

To expand on that:

Atheist: Believes God does not exist.
Agnostic: Believes God could or could not exist, both are possible.

Someone indifferent to the idea of god doesn’t fit into either of those.

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

“Agnosticism (Greek: α- a-, without + γνώσις gnōsis, knowledge; after Gnosticism) is the philosophical view that the truth value of certain claims — particularly metaphysical claims regarding theology, afterlife or the existence of God, gods, deities, or even ultimate reality — is unknown or, depending on the form of agnosticism, inherently unknowable.”

Agnosticism isn’t the belief that a deity is or is not possible; it’s the belief that, whatever the truth may be, we don’t know it or may not be capable of knowing it.

marinelife's avatar

@btko I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny. That is not a religion. Not believing there is a God is not a religion.

Believing that there is a God is only the start to religion. It is a system of belief (which can include a moral code).

augustlan's avatar

I really appreciate everyone’s participation in this debate…even when we don’t agree, it is interesting and lively!

btko's avatar

Alright Crayon, Agnostic “anything is possible”

Marina, I agree: not believing in God is not a religion. But I am saying something slightly different. I am saying the belief that there is no God is a religion.

The difference is subtle… but there.

btko's avatar

If I say “There is no God” or “God is dead” – I am making a statement of what I believe in.

If I say “I don’t believe in God” – I am making an ambiguous statement about what I don’t believe in.

lefteh's avatar

Do I have to choose between those two options then?
I do not believe that there is a god. I am not an agnostic; I do not think that He or they exist(s). I also do not subscribe to any religion. My beliefs are not that of a religion. In fact, they are in direct conflict with religion.

tinyfaery's avatar

@lefteh Do you have faith that god does not exist? I think this is the real question.

btko's avatar

You believe that god(s) do not exist Lefteh.

I still argue that falls under: “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith” (the definition you linked to)

augustlan's avatar

I believe in gravity…does that make it a religion? If I DIDN’T believe in it, would THAT make it a religion?

btko's avatar

That is different Augustlan

augustlan's avatar

@btko…is it possible you are just baiting us?

lefteh's avatar

Faith? Do I have faith that God doesn’t exist?
I don’t know, do you have faith that Santa Claus doesn’t exist? I don’t really know how I can answer that.

btko's avatar

No Augustlan, I’m serious… I thought we were having a good debate… shrug maybe no?

Gravity is different because it’s not a belief – it’s a fact. You don’t believe in facts… a fact is a fact regardless if you believe in it.

btko's avatar

Lefteh… Santa Clause doesn’t exist because we can look over the entire planet and not find him, nor find flying deer. Again… fact is not belief

lefteh's avatar

God doesn’t exist because we can look over the entire planet and not find him, nor find flying apostles.

tinyfaery's avatar

No, I know Santa does not exist, but I faith that my marriage will last until I die. Faith is not based on empirical truths. So, do you have faith god does not exist, or do you know, within your own realm of knowledge, god does not exist?

For the record, I have no idea, but I lean towards no; I just can’t conceive of it being true.

btko's avatar

Maybe then you are confused on what “God” is thought to be Lefteh?

mrjadkins's avatar

No one ever wins in a religious argument. There are wars raging because of linguistics in religious understanding. I don’t think Fluther (in all its majesty) will be the bearer of religious and/or morality understanding.

Good question and debate though.

btko's avatar

Too true mrjadkins! hehe… I don’t mind it though, it helps to keep our minds fresh

btko's avatar

I like the debate because it helps me develop my ideas and feelings on the subject. I hope there are not hard feelings here….

augustlan's avatar

Btko…you’re right it is a good debate…I just thought you were nitpicking a little bit, so I wondered…

lefteh's avatar

No, I am just applying the same logic.
I cannot say whether I have faith in the disbelief of god. It is not something that plays an active role in my life. It’s just absent.

If this makes sense: there is no faith, there is no lack of faith. It’s simply not there.

mrjadkins's avatar

@lefteh amen

btko's avatar

That’s fine Lefteh… it doesn’t have to be there. Then you are not an Atheist. You are not religious, nor an agnostic.

lefteh's avatar

I’m not an atheist?

augustlan's avatar

@lefteh…yeah, I’m confused by that, too.

delirium's avatar

This seems like the perfect time…

A friend, an intelligent lapsed Jew who observes the Sabbath for reasons of cultural solidarity, describes himself as a Tooth Fairy Agnostic. He will not call himself an atheist because it is in principle impossible to prove a negative. But “agnostic” on its own might suggest that he though God’s existence or non-existence equally likely. In fact, though strictly agnostic about god, he considers God’s existence no more probable than the Tooth Fairy’s.
Bertrand Russell used a hypothetical teapot in orbit about Mars for the same didactic purpose. You have to be agnostic about the teapot, but that doesn’t mean you treat the likelihood of its existence as being on all fours with its non-existence.
The list of things about which we strictly have to be agnostic doesn’t stop at tooth fairies and celestial teapots. It is infinite. If you want to believe in a particular one of them—teapots, unicorns, or tooth fairies, Thor or Yahweh—the onus is on you to say why you believe in it. The onus is not on the rest of us to say why we do not. We who are atheists are also a-fairyists, a-teapotists, and a-unicornists, but we don’t’ have to bother saying so.

Perhaps the best of the available euphemisms for atheist is nontheist. It lacks the connotation of positive conviction that there is definitely no god, and it could therefore easily be embraced by Teapot or Tooth Fairy Agnostics. It is less familiar than atheist and lacks its phobic connotations. Yet, unlike a completely new coining, its meaning is clear. If we want a euphemism at all, nontheist is probably the best.
The alternative which I favor is to renounce all euphemisms and grasp the nettle of the word atheism itself, precisely because it is a taboo word carrying frissons of hysterical phobia. Critical mass may be harder to achieve than with some non-confrontational euphemism, but if we did achieve it with the dread word atheist, the political impact would be all the greater.
quoting dawkins

augustlan's avatar

On a side note, we are WAYYY off topic, here. But don’t stop!

tinyfaery's avatar

Atheism, as defined by wiki, is interesting.

lefteh's avatar

From wiki: “It is also defined more broadly as synonymous with any form of nontheism, including the simple absence of belief in deities.”

There I am. The absence.

Trance24's avatar

Here is a similar Question

mrjadkins's avatar

Interesting how this topic is developing. I think some of you should post other questions based on these strands to open it up to more discussion. Very deep topics here. Keep up the good work!

btko's avatar

You are right, you are not an Atheist based on the accepted definition.
“one who believes that there is no deity”

See the concreteness in that belief? They believe there is no god
My main point is really only about Atheism… the definite term “Atheism” is a religion. I have nothing against Atheism or anything like that. I just want to say what I think when Atheist make sweeping generalizations about “religion”.

Great answer Delerium – I would agree with the use of nonthiest.

lefteh's avatar

@btko: I simply disagree that atheism is a religion, and I hold the belief that I am an atheist.

By the way, who decides what the accepted definition is?

btko's avatar

Perhaps your belief in your definition of atheism is itself a religion? haha just kidding.

I have to get going, great talk everyone, as lively as ever. Really good points too. made me think. Take care.

Good night and good luck.

mrjadkins's avatar

God bless. heh

augustlan's avatar

Well everyone, great discussion…but I’ve GOT to get off of here sometime tonight…‘till next time

wildflower's avatar

I personally believe it’s possible – and likely – to have more consistent and complete moral values without the dictation of a religion. After all, religious texts often appeal to discrimination, applying one set of values to one group of people and another to others (non-believers, infidels, heathens, gays, women, sinners, etc.).

My morals are based on human emotion and ego. Treat people as they wish to be treated, avoid doing harm to others when possible, and so forth. My morals are not subject to the other person’s belief, gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, psychical or mental ability – or anything else.

lefteh's avatar

@wildflower: Being a non-believing sinning gay infidel, what you just described plays into the issues I have with religion.

wildflower's avatar

You and me both (being a non-believing, sinning, heathen, female, infidel) :)

chaosrob's avatar

Claiming that atheism is a religion is like claiming vacuum is a gas. It’s just factually incorrect.

btko's avatar

“Claiming that atheism is a religion is like claiming vacuum is a gas”

I see what you are trying to say: A vacuum is devoid of gas. Which is true; Unless it’s a Hoover.
Trying to point out that Atheism is devoid of religion… That’s where you fall short. Atheism is based on belief and faith – as much as any religion. A vacuum devoid of gas is proven.

chaosrob's avatar

Atheism, from the Greek: “without god.” Choosing not to participate in a religion means that you don’t have one. No faith required. Devoid, as you say, of faith. What’s not clear about that?

marinelife's avatar

@btko That just is not so. Atheism is not about faith or belief at all. You can keep saying it is a religion until you are blue in the face, but that does not make it so.

Religious adherents practice their faith. They congregate. They worship their God. They prosyletize.

Atheists do none of those things. Their lives are not focused around not believing in God.

Your contention does not make sense, and it does not fit the facts.

chaosrob's avatar

@Marina You said it better. Also, you reminded me of this British TV show, “Hyperdrive,” where some of the characters were moved to sing agnostic hymns.

Zaku's avatar

When religious people ask this question, it has me suspect that religion actually tends to interfere with humans’ natural capacity for morality.

marinelife's avatar

@cr OMG ROFLOL I never saw that show! The hymns were so good, I started watching the other clips. Are whole episodes shown anywhere in the U.S.? I am going to start a Help Petra Return to the Romanian Circus charity immediately.

chaosrob's avatar

@M LOL! I don’t think BBCA has picked it up yet, though I do think DVDs might be available. There’s always the series of tubes, too…

btko's avatar

“Religious adherents practice their faith. They congregate. They worship their God. They prosyletize.”

That is only one method of being religious… it’s quite clear.

delirium's avatar

That is what we like to call, btko, a non-argument.

btko's avatar

haha okay… I will expand:

It is only one method of being religious because if you look at the excepted definitions of religion, spirituality, and atheism they fit together. I think atheists dislike the idea of religion so much that the thought of being part of one—by definition—bothers them.

“An atheist doesn’t simply lack positive belief in God. The atheist has positive belief in the non-existence of God.”

The Definitions:

Atheism : the theory or belief that God does not exist.
Spirituality: of or relating to religion or religious belief
Religion: a particular system of faith and belief

marinelife's avatar

Right. System. Atheism is not a system of belief.

delirium's avatar

There’s multiple kinds of atheism, btko. That’s where your logic is flawed and fails.

chaosrob's avatar

You might be hanging a little too much weight on the word “belief,” too. I believe that diseases are caused by tiny creatures too small to be seen by the naked eye. Is that a religious conviction?

btko's avatar

There are multiple kinds of religion, delerium. That’s where your logic is flawed and fails.

I see what you mean chaosrob, but I don’t see that as being the same. The only reason I contend that atheism is a form of religion because it pertains to god(s) in some form. And since the existence of god(s) can be neither proved nor disproved, faith in ones belief comes into play.

A belief that disease is caused by little bugs is within our realm of ability’s to prove or disprove. Maybe someday the ability to prove or disprove god(s) will come… until that day I will argue that atheism is a form of religion.

delirium's avatar

BTKO, sarcastic responses that aren’t actually logical don’t help.

You might not realize, but there is a religion that believes that disease is caused by sin and god can heal you.
I believe that they’re wrong… My opposite stance, however, is not a religious conviction, even though it is the opposite of someone else’s religious conviction.

btko's avatar

I wasn’t being sarcastic…

I totally agree than an opposite stance does not have to translate into religious conviction. But it can. There are people who believe that God exists and will save them. There others who Believe Satan exists and will save them. They are opposite… they are both religious. But one is not religious because of the other.

They are religious in their own right… I’m not saying atheism is a religion because it is the opposite of theism. Let’s pretend that theism didn’t exist at all… all around the world there were different forms atheism. People actively believing there is no god. I would call it a religion.

I’m not just trying to ruffle feathers… or be sarcastic. I’m just talking here. I don’t see how, me using your same argument is illogical.

lefteh's avatar

How would it qualify as a religion?

Check out this link. Some really good points.

marinelife's avatar

“People actively believing there is no god. I would call it a religion.” Why? Why is it a religion. It’s just one more thing they believe. They don’t focus on it. They don’t actively believe it. It is one more fact to them.

chaosrob's avatar

@btko Ironically, you seem to have more faith in atheism than I do. In any case, I don’t think you’ll find many atheists proselytizing for their “faith.”

lefteh's avatar

@chaosrob: I couldn’t agree more.

There is no official body of atheists. There is no set of beliefs, no moral code, no scripture. No holy places, no reliance or belief in a supreme being. There is no hierarchy of leaders, and there are no rituals. There are no sacred objects, and no prayer. The bottom line is that there is no structure to atheism, and no set system of beliefs. I cannot see how atheism can be considered a religion.

delirium's avatar

Also, btko, you can’t use my argument back at me because you don’t understand what my argument is. There’s positive atheism and negative atheism. Its a difference of believing that there isn’t a god and not believing that there is a god.
If you don’t think there’s a difference there, you should probably avoid philosophy.

btko's avatar

Thanks for the link lefteh, good points for sure. I like all of your points. I’ll try and answer you all at once since you are saying similar things. If you don’t mind?

I suppose that’s where I am coming from… I am going based on the idea that Atheism is the “positive” version. To me, “negative” atheism is the same as indifference. I do see the difference delerium; I was trying to point out the same for religions. There are different types of religions, religions are not all “rituals, hierarchy, holy places, and supreme beings”; as lefteh mentioned. A religious person does not need a structure.

I’m trying to say just as you say delerium, there is a difference between: believing that there is no go, and not believing in a god. Atheism is one. The other one has no baring on your life at all one doesn’t even consider it.

So I suppose I have two arguments:

a) The religiousness of Atheism
b) True Atheism is in it’s active or “positive” form.

I’m not against theism or atheism… I’m not trying to attack or belittle the beliefs of atheists. I think it’s important to have a clear meaning and understanding of the words we all use. Chaosrob, why I think this way probably comes out because of the groups and atheists that do proselytize their beliefs.

I also think the argument that atheism is a form of religion comes out because instead of (some) atheists arguing against god, they argue against religion in general.

Just pointing out where I am coming from. That article assumed a lot, that I—as a person calling atheism a religion—have no grounds to do so.

lefteh's avatar

“I think it’s important to have a clear meaning and understanding of the words we all use.”

Then why are you arguing against the universally accepted definition of atheism? You’re saying that negative atheism is not atheism, yet you’re placing an importance on consistency of definitions?

btko's avatar

I am using the accepted definition of atheism in the Oxford English Dictionary:

“the theory or belief that God does not exist.” Which corresponds with so called: “Positive” Atheism.

lefteh's avatar

I’m more of a Merriam-Webster man myself..

“a disbelief in the existence of deity b: the doctrine that there is no deity”

This isn’t about what dictionary says what. It’s about the beliefs of millions of people. I can’t even comprehend the idea of telling somebody who does not believe in God and who identifies as an atheist that they are not an atheist.

btko's avatar

Hehe, okay well dictionary choice certainly plays a role.

“I can’t even comprehend the idea of telling somebody who does not believe in God and who identifies as an atheist that they are not an atheist.”

I could call myself a Catholic, or Jew, or Buddhist , or Atheist all or I want, that doesn’t make it true.

If I believe in God… that doesn’t make me a Christian, Jew, Muslim. If I believe in reincarnation, karma, what-have-you.. doesn’t make me a Buddhist. It’s kind of a package deal.

The package of atheism is “the theory or belief that God does not exist.” That’s all you need to be an atheist. I still don’t think that “not believing in god” is the same thing. Granted, words and definitions do change over time – as I see it now though, atheism is mainly aligned against the Judo-Christian “God”.

marinelife's avatar

@btko Just calling yourself something does not make it so. Attempting to redefine atheism as a religion for some weird idea of your own does not make it so either.

You do not seem to be open to reason on this issue. So, call it whatever the heck you want, but don’t be surprised when absolutely no one agrees with you.

btko's avatar

I think I am open to reasonable arguments. I do tend to have an annoyance with many atheists though, many of them are as “preachy” as the most devout Judo-Christian follower. On that note:

Thanks for the links, etc. I tended to follow the classical idea of atheism “The first open denial of the existence of god and avowal of atheism since classical times may be that of Paul Baron d’Holbach (1723–1789)”. My views on atheism have certainly changed – going from a simple act of denying gods existence to the more complex “a disbelief in the existence of deity b: the doctrine that there is no deity”.

I think I can consider my mind changed… or at least shifted. I still see underpinnings of religion in positive (or affirmative) atheism. There are atheist groups that meet in halls and discuss ideas and beliefs, and talk about “converting”. However, I do secede my idea that all of atheism is a religion.

Now… what the hell was the original question? :p

delirium's avatar

Very, VERY few atheists are strong atheists. I don’t actually know a single one. Even richard dawkins says that he isn’t a strong atheist. You’re putting forth a judgment about one aspect that we all agree is taking a leap of faith, and then placing it on the rest of us.

btko's avatar

Yeah, I know, I was just pointing out where I was coming from…

Zaku's avatar

Seems to me many or most people I hear or read saying that they are atheist are more accurately agnostic rather than atheist, even though they may get into disagreement with theists readily.

delirium's avatar

Agnosticism comes in different forms as well… postive, negative, neutral.
I am not an agnostic, I am a negative atheist. A weak atheist. I won’t go as far as to declare that there is absolutely no god… but I am confident in my lack of belief.

btko's avatar

You are confident in your lack of belief?

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

That looks like what was typed, yes.

bunkin's avatar

Religion is a belief… your morals are defined by your beliefs. so i dont believe there would be morals without beliefs in religion.

augustlan's avatar

@bunkin…beliefs can be about anything, not just religion.

bunkin's avatar

but is religion not based on beliefs?

augustlan's avatar

Well, sure, but so are a lot of other things, like racism, and Hitler’s philosphies. Belief can be used to justify both the good and the bad. Morals (good or bad) are almost certainly based on beliefs, but that does not mean they are based on religous beliefs to the exclusion of all other beliefs.

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

Think of it this way, all newts are salamanders but not all salamanders are newts. Religion is based on beliefs, but not all beliefs are centered around a religion.

delirium's avatar

Wonderful way of putting it, crayon.

augustlan's avatar

Thanks for the backup, crayon…and so well said ;)

Knotmyday's avatar

To answer the actual question… there really was one, I swear. Scroll up about six feet or so

Moral codes serve a civic function more than a religious one, whether carved on a stele by one of Hammurabi’s scribes or thrown down a mountain by Moses.

Organized Religion has historically served one purpose- to preserve the hegemony of the ruling elite through fear of divine reparation, whether in this life or the next.
To an extent, and with few exceptions, it still serves that purpose to this day.

GAMBIT's avatar

Someone please define for me what is morality and what religion are we talking about?

I will use the Christian religion as my base. Christians believe in Jesus Christ and his teaching “love thy neighbor as thy self”. Christians also believe in the 10 commandments given to Moses by God. I will take the most holy of commandments “thou shall not kill”. I would say morally it makes sense that no human should be able to take another humans life. Morally it should be wrong.

But the plot thickens.

An 18 year old Christian is drafted into The United State Marine Corps. He’s been deployed to Vietnam with one objective find and kill the enemy. This is his job. He does his job well and he receives a chest full of medals. As a Christian he has broken one of the sacred commandments. There nothing moral about war. Being a soldier he participated in immoral acts of violence.

Conclusion:What does morality and religion have to do with anything when you are face
to face with reality?

I will take another Christian commandment “thou shall not steal”. Morally it should be wrong but we live in a Nation that was founded on theft most of our land was stolen from the Native Americams who were here first.

Morality? Religion? Please give me a break man is trying to survive any way he finds fit.

I apologize to all the good religious people out there I do not mean to offend I am merely faced with trying to answer this question honestly.

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

@GAMBIT: Most, if not all of the acts forbidden by the commandments, had been taboo anyway. I don’t think it’s quite fair to attribute them to religion rather than a common, shared human morality. And morality, just like religion and many other things that find its origins in human beings, can and will be terribly flawed and twisted to suit the needs of the person or organization is question.

jacintomendoza's avatar

disagree, of course we’ll still have our own set of moral standards. the better question is, where will they be based on? society based moral values usually is the common answer, which is sad because of a great extent what is moral in a certain time as well as place may be entirely different in another. take drugs and prostitution for example are legal and socially acceptable in certain countries and not in others…

Critter38's avatar

First, humans have been on this planet for at least 100,000 years. If we are talking about the dominant religions, they’ve only been around for at most 4,000 years in the case of precursors to Judaism. So for 96,000 years we as a species had to get along with other members of our group and deal with people who are unfair or dangerous etc…We simply wouldn’t have persisted as a social primate without some rules of behaviour.

There is fascinating discussion by Sam Harris about the basis for finding an objective source of morality at this link.

http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-candles-in-the-dark/sam-harris-1

Second, we aren’t flying blind with regards to this question, because we already have a test going on this very minute in Scandinavia.

HIghest organic (voluntary) atheism in the world. For instance, less than 20% believe in a personal god in Sweden.

So, are these moral societies? I would argue yes based on the argument that morality and ethics at their core are about decreasing suffering, promoting equality, which thus enables most people to and lead happy lives. If we look at Scandinavia it is a bastion of universal health care, no death penalty, some fo the highest levels of societal happiness, sexual equality, long-life expectancy, low corruption, low child mortality, low murder rates, high refugee intakes, low STD rates, high expenditure on foreign aid, etc. etc..

I doubt we will all agree about morality but these seem to have at least something to do with the issue, and things are going along just fine in these societies that are dominated by agnostics and atheists. If religion was necessary for morality in all societies, then we shouldn’t see exceptions like this.

Phil Zuckerman has a book out called Society without God, which examines this very question based on Scandinavia

Third, is the argument that we should see higher rates of crime being committed by atheists. This is not the case, but is probably confounded by different socio-economic /educational levels.

ninjacolin's avatar

I believe that without the modern religions (christianity, muslim, judaism and the like) morals would continue to exist just as they do now: As memes passed on from one person to another. They would continue to be be considered “best practices” for attaining the highest possible quality of life.

Without all the religions of today, the only thing that would change is the anticipated reward for living that moral life. Hence, people won’t expect heaven as a reward. knowing that they will eventually die, they would expect only to have succeeded at living a life filled with happiness while they had the chance.

manoffaith3112's avatar

Jesus did not really like all “religious” people. Why? Some of the examples of why is because when fasting or praying some of the “religious” people would make sure other’s knew what sacrifice was going on when fasting, and how great they were by praying. So religion by itself will not always help people to be moral.

Just religious rules doesn’t do people much good either. Because if its just rules from religion there is not a change of attitude, or thinking, or especially a change of heart.

As strong as our American government is morality itself has never been legislated through laws. Although the law may be good and even moral it doesn’t necessarily change people.

For God so loved…..John 3;16

If any person be in Christ thay are a new creature. Old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.
2 Corinthians 5;17.

In my experience true charity, true love, true forgiveness,and true morality can be attained from the love God can shed abroad in each person’s heart. Just a set of rules or legalistic “religion” does not promote true morality ever. However, getting to know Jesus can change attitudes, a mind, and especially a heart.

It is only through the price paid by Jesus for humanity’s sins is where any one could ever be justified because that is where true love comes by. Once a person accepts Jesus into one’s life by asking for forgiveness, repenting or turning away from one’s sin, and begin to live for Him instead of self its a lot easier to be moral. If a person is filled up with love from God then its easier to love other’s. If a person loves those who are in contact with every day then that person doesn’t want to do any one wrong any more. That is how it can work for those who believe. Rules of “religion” alone doesn’t really make a person moral.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Religion is an excuse to abandon innate morals in the name of God.

kalrbing's avatar

I understand what you are stating @augustlan. I think religion/“biblical times” did give a basis of the morals and standards that are set today. So honestly, no matter how hard we try there can never be a separation of church and state, because all of our law are based off of morals and ethical beliefs that align with religious texts. Along with this, it would be answered differently based on person beliefs, because anyone who believes that God created the heavens and the earth would believe God was around at the start of it all. Anyone who believes differently and follows something like the big bang theory would say that there were people on earth before “biblical times”. That is a very complex question. Congrats on the debate win!

Hibernate's avatar

@kalrbing depends. A separation is needed when the state tries to govern churches [to decide what can be said and not] or how many money they receive. I like very much that a lot of neoprotestant churches separated from state and manage on their own.
Why? Because when the State is saying something and God’s version doesn’t stay on the same track with the State then any believer should follow God and not what the state is saying. Remember that Christianity has a chapter [Paul in Romans 13] dedicated to following and obeying the laws and authorities. But God’s law comes first then the States. This is why there’s a need for separation.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I would say religion would lend nothing to morality unless it is a religion based on a living God. Other than that, it is had about as much weight was not having any. Religion itself is just a means to an end, but not the end.

JenniferP's avatar

I think that everyone has a God-given conscience whether they realize that it is from God or not. That includes atheists. They want to do the right thing. Some are better people than those who are religious.

tinyfaery's avatar

Miss these Jellies.

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