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Dutchess_III's avatar

Can you have morality without religion?

Asked by Dutchess_III (42007points) January 28th, 2019

Augustlan asked this question in 2008. I came across it and thought it would be interesting to discuss it with the current crop of Jellies.

There is a school of thought that says there would be no morality without religion. Do you agree or disagree?

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62 Answers

Demosthenes's avatar

There is also a school that says that while you can have morals without religion, they will be relative necessarily. Is it possible to have anything other than moral relativism without religion? I think that’s an interesting question as well.

Religion makes justifying morality easier. You can say that it comes from something eternal, thus it’s absolute and unquestionable. When you run into a moral dilemma, you consult the holy book to solve it. It’s more difficult without that kind of authoritative absolute morality.

This is more of an additional question to append to your question more than it it is an answer, but I find this a fascinating topic so I’ll be following to see what others have to say.

ragingloli's avatar

Can you have morality with religion?
Without religion, you have to think about what is “right and wrong”.
You have to justify it to yourself and others.

With religion, you are following the decrees of long dead old authoritarians from 4000 years ago.
You do not think, you obey.
And like those weak willed SS officers, you are “just following orders”.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I saw a documentary a while back on chimps helping each other out, even though the one chimp really had nothing to gain from helping the other. Would that be considered “morality?”

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

The golden rule is enough. Treat others as you would have them treat you. I am baffled why there is much else to discuss.

ellespark's avatar

Absolutely. In the same way you can have religion and immorality.

zenvelo's avatar

Religion isn’t about morality anymore than it is about spirituality. Religion is codifying behavior to preserve power.

Morality without religion is everpresent.

Zaku's avatar

Yes, of course you can.

What I wonder is whether this question would even occur to people who weren’t exposed to a highly moralistic religious culture, particularly one that claims a monopoly on Good the way some Christians do.

gorillapaws's avatar

Yes. See: Secular Humanism as an example.

seawulf575's avatar

I think @Demosthenes has the right answer. You can have morality without religion, but it will be nebulous at best. People tend to justify bad behavior. They will, therefore, adjust what is “moral” to fit their views. @gorillapaws brings up Secular Humanism as an example. But that deals with human reason and ethics, but isn’t really based on anything and can vary greatly from person to person. Ted Bundy probably felt he was quite moral. He was certainly adhering to his moral standard.
With a religion, you at least have a standard set of values a group of people can say are “moral”. It holds a group of people to one standard of values as opposed to letting everyone set their own standard. That is not to say I would say all religions are moral by my views, nor that all people that adhere to a religion necessarily follow the morals of that religion. But you have a set of standards to judge them by when they stray.

seawulf575's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay I used to believe the Golden Rule should be enough. But then I read a story where the author addressed that. Treat people as you would have them treat you. So if I am a masochist, I should be a sadist to others since that is how I would like to be treated?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@seawulf575 There are quite a few things in the bible I disagree with though.
Even the LGTBQ issue has proven difficult to reconcile with the bible, as we all know, especially with religious people who take it very seriously.

The best bet, for me, is to do what I think it right and moral, and let the rest be up to God to judge. After all, the Golden Rule teaches you just to love, and another verse says not to judge lest ye be judged, remove the plank from your own eye, etc…

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575 “But that deals with human reason and ethics, but isn’t really based on anything and can vary greatly from person to person.”

It is my understanding that Secular Humanism doesn’t support moral subjectivism as your statement implies. Secular Humanists argue that any moral theory should hold up to logical scrutiny, and moral subjectivism does not—A secular humanist would reject it for exactly the same reason you do.

One example of a secular moral theory is John Rawls.

It’s also arguable that religion-based morality isn’t really based on anything. Christians, for example have to give a good explanation for why some religious texts were canonized and others weren’t. Check this table out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_canon#Table

How can anyone say that Christianity is absolute with so much disagreement between what is and isn’t deserving of being in the Bible—by people who lived hundreds of years after Christ none-the-less? Religion doesn’t solve the morality issue at all.

Dutchess_III's avatar

People can also use their religion to justify bad behavior @seawulf575. I don’t think that kind of thing depends on religion or lack of. It depends on the person.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think I have a high standard of morality and I don’t have religion.
My parents were ~Christian, but they expected me to act a certain way because that was the right thing to do, not because God and Jesus were punish me if I didn’t.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

You can have morality without religion, but it will be nebulous at best.

Yes, if you lack the integrity and character to respect others without fear of punishment.

Pinguidchance's avatar

Morality without religion would be like religion without a god, hang on, now wait a minute there, I hear what you’re saying Jimmy and the answer is nnn, yes.

seawulf575's avatar

@KNOWITALL if you look, I haven’t listed a specific religion. ALL religions have some sort of guidance on what is moral and what isn’t…what is expected and what isn’t acceptable. But we can look at the bible. It is full of moral items. Even the stance on homosexuality in some points of the bible are moral items. It may not be a moral you agree with, but it is a moral. It is something in the text of the religion that says “here is what is right and what is wrong.”. The Quran talks about cutting off the hands of thieves as a punishment. That is enforcing a moral…that it is wrong to steal. Not really a punishment I would go for but it is there for guidance in keeping morals. The Buddhist Precepts give a list of things to avoid for a better life. Sounds amazingly like morals to me. But in each of these cases, there is something written down that can be referenced and doesn’t change with time.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws If you review the first link you gave, let me show you where it falls apart to say it isn’t subjective.

“The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is the world union of more than one hundred humanist, rationalist, irreligious, atheist, Bright, secular, Ethical Culture, and freethought organizations in more than 40 countries”

The main secular humanist organization in the world is made up of at least 8 different organizations that don’t necessarily believe the same things. Yet they are all secular humanists. There really isn’t a set of rules that can be touched to say “This is moral and that isn’t” It flows with time and tide. 200 years ago slavery was perfectly moral. To make that point even a little better, your Secular Humanism citation has this statement:

“Many secular humanists derive their moral codes from a philosophy of utilitarianism, ethical naturalism, or evolutionary ethics, and some advocate a science of morality.”

If you go to utilitarianism you find it was founded by Jeremy Bentham, a British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer. He also wrote a treatise justifying negro slavery:

http://www.academia.edu/3043942/British_utilitarianisms_justification_of_Negro_slavery

So apparently secular humanists view slavery as moral? See the problem here? There is nothing actually written down to say what is moral to a secular humanist. So it really comes down to the individual on any given day on how they want to view things to determine what is moral.

seawulf575's avatar

@Dutchess_III absolutely people use religion to justify bad behavior. As I said before, people try to justify their bad behavior. It can be something as small as driving 8 mph over the speed limit. It is actually illegal, you can get a ticket for it, yet many people do it with justification that others are doing it or the cops never ticket you just for that. It’s still wrong. And I have seen many people use religion as a justification.

I find it interesting that you brought up Christianity as an influence for your behavior. You tried downplaying the religious part by saying you were taught to act a certain way because it was right, not because of some punishment. But where did those determinations of what is right and wrong come from? I’d bet a shiny dime your parents learned right and wrong from the bible. Look at the 10 commandments as a start. There are some really good things there. Don’t kill, don’t lust after your neighbor’s wife, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness…all good moral behavior. But my point is that it is written down. You can look at that and say “here it is!” So let’s speculate for a moment. Your parents probably knew the bible said this is right and that is wrong and taught you those same things. But they didn’t push the religious aspect on you. Now you have grown up, are fairly well disgusted with Christianity so you don’t have that religion. And you teach your kids what is right and what is wrong as you see it. But as your kids grow up, they won’t remember all those things because they are not reinforced anywhere. So they may alter those morals a little. And their kids a little more or a lot more because they don’t understand where the morals come from or why they apply in their lives. Pretty soon being unfaithful to your spouse is morally okay because everyone does it. It happens so often it is the new norm and there is nothing saying otherwise. That is what I am talking about how morals can be nebulous without religion.

kritiper's avatar

Why of course! After all, religion is a lie.

answerbag's avatar

Well, there is ethic.
Maybe what changes it is the name. Huh, I prefer mine.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

In my world “right“and “wrong” is determined by whether or not it hurts people unnecessarily.

@seawulf575, do you honestly think that the Native Americans who were here in North America for ~20,000 years before the European missionaries showed up had no clue what the difference between right and wrong was the until then?

Aethelwine's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay You can have morality without religion, but it will be nebulous at best.

“Yes, if you lack the integrity and character to respect others without fear of punishment.”

This is the best response I’ve seen in a long time. Of course @seawulf doesn’t have a rebuttal because you were spot on.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

That’s right. Humans were completely in the dark about right and wrong until just 2000 short years ago.

Unofficial_Member's avatar

Yes, but I believe that without the fear and enforcement induced by religions most people wouldn’t be so inclined to practice morality in the first place. Religions have this super ‘secret’ called “Reward and Punishment”, which I find to be effective. Doing morally good things can earn you a ticket to heaven, while immoral things will earn you a ticket to hell (that many people fear). People think of the big picture.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Well, that is the difference between maturity and immaturity, and upbringing @Unofficial_Member. Would you do wrong if you thought you wouldn’t be caught.

Unofficial_Member's avatar

^^ Like I said, it’ll have to depend on the person, but where I live the majority of people are heavily influenced by religion. That has nothing to do with maturity, it’s simply a belief of morality as part of the religion.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I am asking you @Unofficial_Member. Would you do wrong if you knew you wouldn’t be caught?

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575 I don’t think you understand what Moral Subjectivism is. It means we all can believe what we want for our moral code—which doesn’t make any sense (as you pointed out with the Ted Bundy example). There are many competing moral theories—many are secular, and people debate which one they believe to be correct through logic, reason and philosophy. It’s an open question in the field of ethics, but the theories are improving over the centuries (which I would argue is an advantage over a static text from thousands of years ago—that is itself nebulous in what is and isn’t considered cannon). Just because there isn’t one singular answer doesn’t mean that moral theorists believe that we get to pick which one we want (or arbitrarily invent our own). Each believes in the correctness of the theory they follow (and consequently believe the others to be incorrect) much as a Buddhist may disagree with the moral conclusions of a Mormon.

The utilitarian example is absurd. Utilitarianism has evolved greatly from it’s inception. It has become more refined over the years. Certainly one of the philosophical challenges of Utilitarianism is that horrible things could justifiably be done to a small number of individuals in order to benefit a large group. You can try to establish a kind of moral calculus that assigns the appropriate weights to actions that may offset egregious actions.

Personally, I favor Rawls’ approach to moral theory and justice.

Returning to the problem with religion as the source of morality, because it’s based on static, ancient texts, with many interpretations, it’s widely inconsistent from each denomination or sect, and furthermore, it can’t address new ethical dilemmas that were nonexistent at the time.

Is it wrong to get a blood transfusion? The Bible does say not to drink blood (though Jesus does instruct his disciples to drink his blood symbolically), but is transfusing the same as drinking? We can go back to the original translations of the word to try to find out more of it’s meaning (is the word really “drink?”) but those words themselves were recorded long after the original events transpired, are we certain that they got the exact words right when they wrote it down? Certainly if the authors had known that their precise vocabulary would be used to determine the life and death of people thousands of years in the future they may have been more specific in their word selection? What does the Bible say about gender reassignment surgery? What does it say about using stem cells to treat disease? What does it say about artificial intelligence?

Unofficial_Member's avatar

@Dutchess_lll I wouldn’t do it on purpose. But in general, if people aren’t caught then they’ll have no qualm to do wrong.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Unofficial_Member I abstain from doing wrong actions because it’s against my beliefs, not out of fear of punishment. Furthermore, in a Christian faith where all sins can be forgiven simply by apologizing to the big man upstairs, it’s actually not a particularly strong deterrent for bad behavior.

Unofficial_Member's avatar

@gorillapaws You call it “belief”. Religion is also a “belief”, part of the belief is that people with bad behavior will eventually receive divine punishment. Sins can be forgiven, yes (and up to a limit), however when religious leaders have successfully etched the dire consequence and importance to avoid immoral behavior in the mind of mundane people they’ll less likely to commit such behavior, compared with when there’s no regulating factor. Religion is a good (if not the best) regulating factor to influence people to practice good behavior. Entice them and induce fear in their heart, and they will become your docile little lamb. Your personal belief have no imaginable incentive (like afterlife paradise) and fear as the control measure (for example, eternal hellfire).

gorillapaws's avatar

@Unofficial_Member “Your personal belief have no imaginable incentive…”

What about the incentive I have of wanting to live a moral life? It’s an intrinsic incentive. What a depressing world it would be if I thought people were only kind to each other simply because they were fearful of hell or trying to buy points to get into heaven. That’s a sad take on humanity.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Ethics, are a matter of convenience. Especially if you tie morality, to religion…

Religion is simply a tool to control large populations.

Interestingly, some religions lasted longer than the logic that supported them. Leaving massive holes for “interpretation, ” from others to wield the power of many religions to cause people to harm others.

More to the point. Religion is carrot, and stick. Do “right” and be rewarded forever. Do “wrong ,” and be punished forever. Simple, and unprovable methods of controlling masses…

It’s hard for some, to wrap their heads around “why not do wrong without punishment,” than others. They need the “speed limits,” or they’ll speed.

I don’t kill anything really. Not even insects, if I can help it. Only if they attack me, will I destroy them. I don’t know if that’s in religious text or not, but I just hate killing things. It feels “wrong.” It is wrong.

I’m not afraid of some God’s permanent record of me. I just try not to do too many “bad” things.

The Then Commandments are great. But they don’t mention rape, or chemical weapons…...

ragingloli's avatar

“The Ten Commandments are great. But they don’t mention rape, or chemical weapons…...”
Well, the later parts mention rape. Specifically that the victim must marry the rapist. Because religious morality.
As for chemical weapons… God did release a plague on Egypt. So that is fair game, too.
War crimes? The book tells you to kill all the children, except for virgin girls.
Is that not moral?

LostInParadise's avatar

A non-religious person can accept the moral guidelines given in religious texts – don’t steal, don’t kill, etc. You don’t need a bible or have to believe in God to feel in your gut that these are morally correct. People, religious and non-religious, will disagree on the specifics of certain moral issues, but there is a general outline that nearly all of us would agree to, with or without religion.

LostInParadise's avatar

A question to all those self-righteous religious people here: What moral behavior do you engage in only because you believe in God?

seawulf575's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay You can have morality without religion, but it will be nebulous at best.

“Yes, if you lack the integrity and character to respect others without fear of punishment.”

This is the best response I’ve seen in a long time. Of course @seawulf doesn’t have a rebuttal because you were spot on.

I didn’t respond because I viewed this as a silly answer. The question was about can morals exist without religion. It isn’t “Does religion make you follow your morals?” I guess if you want to change the question this answer makes sense.
But you opened the door so let’s step right through. How many people are there out there that lack moral character? Lots. Integrity and character are sorely lacking in our world these days. People don’t know how to respect each other. There are around 10 million cases of identity theft each year. In 2017 there wer 5.5M thefts, 773k vehicle thefts, 1.4M burglaries, 810k aggravated assaults, 135k rapes and 17k murders. And there is threat of punishment in each of these cases. And in each of these cases you had someone lacking integrity and character to respect each other. Now, it is a matter of speculation of how bad it would be if there were no threat of punishment. Humans are horrible creatures that commit great atrocities on one another. When you trust to people to treat each other with moral dignity, you are backing a losing horse. We create laws to spell out our morals in detail. Many of our laws were drawn from religious doctrine. Yeah, I know…all you Christian haters out there hate that. But it is true.

Unofficial_Member's avatar

@gorillapaws What matters is that regardless of the incentive people will keep on practicing moral behavior in the end. Do you think it’s really that fast and easy to convince large population of people about the idea of wanting to live a moral life? Well, religion is far more effective and does the job better in influencing mundane people’s mindset. It’s not depressing, really, it just shows us how the real world works. Nobody does something for nothing. They need a reason (and a benefit), and religion can easily provide that.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws you are making my point without actually realizing it. Utilitarianism was just one I chose out of a list of isms that secular humanists follow. You say it has evolved significantly since its inception. That inception was about 220 year ago. That means that the beliefs of secular humanism have evolved along with them. They are changing all the time. They are nebulous. What is moral today might not be moral tomorrow. Religious doctrines that spell out morality have stayed pretty constant for thousands of years. And interestingly, most religious texts have the same basic morals at their core. Christianity, Islam, Buddhist, Hindu….all echo the same morality throughout. Some of the details are different, but what they call moral stays the same.

LostInParadise's avatar

You can’t be serious. The bible accepts slavery. The bible condemns homosexuality. The bible treats women as property. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is from the bible. The bible also condemns those who become wealthy from the interest they charge on money they lend.

People cherry pick the parts of the bible they want to believe in. The parts they choose has changed over time, and is the result of changes in secular standards.

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575 “They are changing all the time. They are nebulous.”
This is a non sequitor. A swordsmith who is constantly refining a blade is changing it, but she is refining the blade at it’s boundaries and improving it. It’s core doesn’t really change. It would be incorrect to say the blade is “nebulous” just because it’s still in the process of being perfected. You’re not going to see Secular Humanists all of a sudden declare that cold-blooded murder and slavery are acceptable.

What are examples of moral actions that a Mormon (or Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Baptist, etc.) scholar is better equipped to evaluate with his moral toolkit than a Secular Humanist is?

“Religious doctrines that spell out morality have stayed pretty constant for thousands of years.”
As @LostInParadise correctly points out, there are plenty of Biblical moral precepts that have evolved over time. There is plenty of change in the interpretation, and the reasoning is much more arbitrary than using logic, reason and philosophy to improve our understanding of morality.

Additional examples of Biblical moral tenants that seem to be ignored in modern day are the prohibition against eating shellfish, octopus, or calamari (things in the ocean without fins and scales). It also says that if a man rapes a woman he has to pay her father 50 pieces of silver and marry her. Does anyone want to have their daughter marry her rapist?

seawulf575's avatar

@LostInParadise I am serious. And the funniest part is that you are trying to turn this into a pro or con on Christianity. I am not. I am stating that morals that are listed in a religious context are written down and easy to follow. If you don’t have religion, you are trusting to a very nebulous grasp on morals, especially from generation to generation.
And your efforts to slam the bible are hillarious. The bible accepts slavery. It writes about slavery because it was a way of life in the time of the events listed in the bible. But where does it say slavery is a moral good? It does give guidance on how to treat slaves…with kindness and respect. The bible condemns homosexuality Yep. That is a moral from the bible. If you refer back to my answer to @KNOWITALL you will see that I have already stated that and my stance on that. The bible treats women as property Again, it does mention it because some people in the day did treat them that way, but where does it say you can should buy and sell women? It does give guidance for women to obey their men and for men to treat their wives with love and respect. The guidance, by the way, is the moral action here. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is from the bible. No, those words do not appear in the bible. It does make reference to using “the rod” on a misbehaving child. And the moral? Don’t allow children to misbehave. Punishment is not always a bad thing. It teaches respect for the rules and for the parents. It reinforces lessons the child may have forgotten. It does not say “feel free to beat your children to within an inch of their life”. Again, it gives guidance to parents on how to treat their children. The bible also condemns those who become wealthy from the interest they charge on money they lend. Absolutely. It likens excessive interest with stealing. Jesus threw the money changers from the gates of the temple. That is because they were charging people for the right to enter the temple to pray. Entirely different aspect and lesson there.
People cherry picking the parts of the bible they want to believe in does indeed happen. But the overall lessons remain the same. Even with the advent of Christianity. Jesus didn’t say to ignore the previous lessons. He charged us with loving one another. And if you try to run that out for examination, you find that pretty much sums up most of the Mosaic laws (the 10 Commandments). You don’t lie, cheat, steal or kill those you love. The morals remain the same.

ragingloli's avatar

The bible treats slavery as moral, because it does not ban it, all the while it bans other trivial things, like eating shellfish and pork, tattoos, and homosexuality.
But instead of saying “hey, do not own slaves”, it instead condones it, and gives pro-tips on how to trick slaves, who you are supposed to set free after a set number of years, to become your slaves forever.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It also condones polygamy (for the men, anyway.) And adultery.

Demosthenes's avatar

@seawulf575 But what that shows is that religious texts are framed by the culture they spawn from. Slavery isn’t condemned because the culture that produced the Bible did not condemn it. It might’ve been condemned and then we could say that the Bible contains a moral guideline against slavery. Since it doesn’t, the moral prohibition of slavery, which we’ve come to accept in the West, has to come from somewhere else.

Even then while some of the Mosaic guidelines can be summarized in the 10 commandments, not all of them can. We can say that “larger” moral concepts of the OT have not changed, but the “lesser” ones certainly have. They are no longer to be followed, per the New Testament’s guidelines.

And this is to make a larger statement about the fact that even morals contained within a religious text are subject to refinement or change (as the NT did to some of the OT laws).

LostInParadise's avatar

@seawulf575 , You are saying that slavery was okay because that is what people did. So if they were all thieves, would stealing be okay? What peculiar logic. People were given moral laws for what most of them already thought was moral.

Dutchess_III's avatar

” People were given moral laws for what most of them already thought was moral.” Excellent point @LostInParadise.

tinyfaery's avatar

There is no morality in doing things for a reward. Morality exists when people practice empathy/altruism for the sake of others and ultimately themselves. In this sense, many animals are more moral than people.

Even though I am an atheist I sometimes think that religion is a good thing, being that most people are selfish, gullible and stupid. They need religion to tell them what to do because they have no empathy or conscience to act without the guidance of some supposed superior being.

It’s hard to imagine a world full of people that would commit heinous acts if it were not for some sky-daddy telling them not to. As it is, the world we have now, which is ruled by religion, is heinous enough.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@seawulf575 Bottom line, Christianity or the Bible, or religious teachings are all subjective to the individual, but you are correct, in that they do give moral guidelines, which are quite often, good for many of us.

Serial killers often claim religion, while others have no known religious affiliation. There is no way to tell which people will end up using it for good, or for ill.
https://www.murdermiletours.com/blog/serial-killers-murderers-and-their-religion-faith

To me, this question originally (years ago) convinced me that many people who are atheist or agnostic, or have zero interest in religion, can also be good human beings. I have been paying closer attention to groups such as Pro Life Generation and others, and it’s very interesting and gives me hope.
https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/10/19/atheists-case-against-abortion-respect-human-rights

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think that most likely the thing that serial killers have in common is severe childhood abuse.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Dutchess_III I would LOVE to discuss in another thread if you care to.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Sure! Post the question.

ucme's avatar

That’s me in the corner…

Dutchess_lll's avatar

@Unofficial_Member you say that people will do wrong if they think they won’t get caught. That is true for some extremely immature adults.
I do what I think is right because it’s the right thing to do, not because I’ll get rewarded (or published) for it.

I have an interesting social experiment for you….ask random people that you know if they’d steal a car.
Most will say “No.”
Then ask them why or why not.
If they say “Because I could go to jail,” then you know the person does not have a mature sense of morality.
If they say “Because someone worked hard for that car and it would be wrong to just take it,” then you know they have a nature sense of morality.

Dutchess_III's avatar

* mature. *

It’s something I learned in school. It’s called “internal” and “external” control. Prior to about the age of 5 children are controlled by external forces. They disobey mom, they get time out. They learn not to disobey mom.
At about 4 or 5, a good parent will start reinforcing internal control, where a child learns to control their behavior, not because they will get in trouble, but because it simply the right thing to do.
Unfortunately, many parents never manage to convey that to their kids and they wind up like you expect, @Unofficial_Member. If they won’t get caught, if there is no external control, they’ll do the bad thing.

Most people who are in jail never learned any internal control.

kritiper's avatar

@Dutchess_III If I was given the answer options of only “Because I could go to jail” and/or ” Because someone worked hard for that car and it would be wrong to just take it,” I would have to answer that neither answer is acceptable.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You don’t get an option. You are simply asked why or why not. Your reason is your own.

kritiper's avatar

How fair is that? Why couldn’t I just say that “The car in question isn’t mine.” Or, “I have a car already.” Or, “If I want a car I’ll get one for myself.” Or, “I’m not a thief so the question doesn’t apply.”
Your options only imply that you believe that I am a thief looking for the/a proper/suitable opportunity to steal something.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You could reply with that.

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