Enjoy life now

enjoylife

Geez, I wish I could, but other people keep getting in the way.  I’d like to do lots of things that others have collectively and arbitrarily decided they don’t want me to be able to do.

If there is no afterlife, this sign really is right, we should eat, drink, and be merry — for tomorrow we die. It seems to be advocating for self-informed moral freedom, which isn’t really morality at all, but is entirely consistent with there being no God, is it not?  I think so, but  I can’t even begin to count the number of times Atheists have come here and told me I am mistaken that an atheistic worldview doesn’t allow for actions free from ultimate consequences.  The fact remains, however, that if we do exist in a Godless universe with no transcendent moral impositions or eternal consequences, our only non-illusory worries to our actions are the personal discomforts associated with getting caught: imprisonment, public shame, loss of friendship, etc.  So don’t go imposing your non-religious “morality” on me, it gets in the way of me enjoying life.

Pearls

Comments

  1. I love it! Great post.

    I remember asking an atheist one time why I shouldn’t lie to my kids. “Sorry honey, I missed your dance recital today. My boss gave me some really important work to take care of.” But, in reality, I was out golfing. There is virtually no chance of getting “caught”, of having any negative consequences. In fact, telling the truth would likely hurt my relationship with my daughter, right? (and hurt her self-esteme) Therefore, lying is the appropriate action.

    Ditto with lust. Who cares if I look at some internet porn and then lie to my wife about it? There’s nothing wrong with it. As long as my wife doesn’t find out, no one will be hurt. I can cover my tracks pretty well and never get “caught”.

    Most people would consider both of these actions wrong – but I can’t come up with any reason that these actions are wrong in an atheistic worldview. Can anyone help me out?

    • Tumeyn

      It would seem that in a Godless universe, utilitarianism is the only approach to ethics one could take. I can’t think of anything else with any real binding standard. But even still, what one considers the best outcome is purely preferential subjectivism.

  2. And what sort of utilitarianism?
    One based on humanISM or one based on egoISM?
    I find that in a atheistic worldview both have the same basis.

  3. Not really speaking as an atheist and anti-utilitarian.

    Empathy means I do care what happens to others. Humanism shapes a consideration for others when deciding how to live my life.

    • John

      Thanks for the perspective. But I can’t help but think that while it may help shape your views, it does not prescribe any particular perspective on the value or suffering of others. One could be a humanist and come to very different conclusions as to how or whether ones empathy expresses itself.

  4. That’s where thought and philosophy have played a part in moral reasoning. We can point to religious clergy that helped genocide in Rwanda. Professing belief in a deity, or non belief is not by itself something that leads to moral action.

    My thoughts on Humanism and the International Humanist and Ethical Union:

    http://homoeconomicusnet.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/what-is-humanism/

    For those that think utilitarianism is the answer do check out Rawls and Nozick. Different philosophies, but both IMHO demolish utilitarianism as a concept for moral good.

    • John

      I agree that humanists are not all utilitarian, what I’m saying is that in a Godless universe, no moral or ethical rule can be said to have a true imposition on people. In the end there is no prescribed way to behave toward others. What end up happening is the most preferable to the most people who have the power to enforce it.

      • I would reject the premise we need a celestial being to give true meaning to human actions, or such an all powerful being has set down a moral code for us to follow in how we deal with each other. Such things are designed by us.

        Civilisation has flourished because of social cooperation, and ability to come to terms with rules governing. Anti social behaviour was dealt with, however it was defined.

        Concepts like empathy, duty, responsibility are not dependent on a universe with god in making more true and binding on us. These are human values we use every day in our obligations to each other.

        People live for each other, and die for each other, and their actions are not diminished by lacking a God to enforce this. They just do.

        • “Civilisation has flourished because of social cooperation, and ability to come to terms with rules governing. Anti social behaviour was dealt with, however it was defined”

          This is utilitarianism. This view trades on “what works best is what is good”. Here “Good” is equivocated. What is intended is a moral understanding, but what is given in the example is the kind of good that most closely parallels with a good move in chess. Behaving is good in so much as it helps flourishing and cooperation.

          On humanism, what obligates me to behave? Why should I not, say, rob an unmarried rich person with no other family or friends who lives alone if I can use the spoils to help 3-4 or 10 poor people get food and shelter? Especially if I am willing to tolerate the temporal punishment if I were to get caught. Now, don’t tell me why you think I shouldn’t do that, tell me what facet of humanism dictates that’s what I ought not do, and why I should care.

          • Perhaps you should find out about John Rawls: A Theory of Justice. A quick google will explain the idea of social cooperation despite his anti-utilitarianism. He gives a good definition of what utility is as well.

            It also covers redistributive justice. And ideas about a just society. Redistributive justice is covered as well.

            Being good is not just about how a society runs. Plato in “The Republic” uses the idea of a city to explain an individuals moral obligations regarding justice. I was using an individual in a social context to one another.

            You should care because it could happen to you, or your loved ones – whether as a victim of theft or homeless or starving. If you want to calculate being good as a cost benefit analysis of being caught versus reward, that is a logic I would disagree with as being moral because the resulting behaviour is based on sanction and not because it is good.

            The veil of ignorance concept that Rawls uses might be useful here.

            I find the idea that moral behaviour is only applicable with a god to punish and add weight to dictates very immoral. You behave out of fear and submission – not because the action itself is good or bad without someone from on high acknowledging it keeping score.

            Thankfully we are social animals that have found ways beyond stealing from each other on a daily basis to make ends meet. I would be the first to say we have someway to go in making this world a just place. It is a crime against humanity children starve to death in this world.

            Still we have the tools and the discourse to at least improve the situation.

            • Please don’t assign me homework. It sounds like you’re familiar with his work, perhaps you could summarize the portion of his arguments you believe to be relevant.

              Also, what of I don’t care if I get robbed, just not wanting it to happen to me doesn’t oblige me to not rob the rich bachelor for the good of others.

              This is where having no transcendent standard bearer with true ultimate consequences to our actions comes in to play. It becomes preference and individual rationale. Precisely my point.

              Your suggestion that I shouldn’t do it doesn’t address the wrongness of the robbery, it addresses the discomfort of the possible consequence, which was my conclusion.

  5. If you are going to use terms from philosophy there is no substitute for doing your homework if you want to discuss these things. Wanting to live a good life has been one of the questions people have wrestled with through the ages. I hope you get the same joy reading these books that I did. They will also inform on the subject you are clearly interested in.

    Kant (Rawls uses his thinking) has the universalism principle. Namely if everyone did it would that be a good thing or a bad thing? Such thinking would suggest we would not want to live in a society where everyone stole from one another. Theft is wrong because of the consequences. If there are no consequences then you do not have a moral issue. What happens to people and society matters in the temporal world.

    Rawls’ veil of ignorance is that you do not know how you will be set up in a society. Not even your gender or religion or politics. Under these conditions, you would create a just society. You would not even know if you were apathetic, or a risk taker.

    Then there is social contract theory. The things we would agree to if we met together to create a community for the first time.

    Then there is the concept of private property. Libertarianism especially has many things to say regarding that, and theft.

    To somehow say the consequences are only worth considering when factoring in god is just not born out by experience or human thought on these issues.

    We can create courts, law, law enforcement, social conventions, moral education, and human discourse about the moral life. What we cannot confirm in the same way is that there is a god, who god is, and what their view is and their means of getting involved in the affairs of us living or dead. To believe in the god that you do is a preference to, with a rationale for your belief.

    My point is that you can be good for goodness sake.

    .

    • None of this answers the “why should I?” question. I know it sounds silly, but seriously, why should I care if society steals from one another? In a Darwinian situation, we are but another species on the chain. I have asked this question before and I’ll ask it again: We dont view animals behaving in ways we humans would find abhorrent, immoral, and downright deplorable — such as stealing, raping, infanticide, siblingicide, etc. Those animals seem to live just fine with it all. The question is this: Is there a non-arbitrary reason why the moral neutrality for animal behaviors ends with human beings? In other words, we find forced copulation, one lion stealing a carcass from another, birds who push their sibling out of the nest, etc. morally neutral. That’s just nature. Why dont we view the same actions by humans to be “just nature”? Does an answer for this exist that isnt arbitrary preference? Especially since most of the time behaviors that would aid in flourishing, such as killing the handicapped, the terminally ill, and the elderly — also stealing money in order to feed my own family, or spreading my genes with as many women as possible would be consistent with an evolutionary take on survival, which is flourishing.

      Why cant I opt out of the social contract that others decided for me? What other species has such a contract?

  6. Actually they do give reasons why you should evaluate your behaviour. What would life be be like if everyone did this? What value is the concept of private property? Plato inTthe Republic mentions whether it would be theft to keep someone’s sword who wanted to kill himself.

    They all add up to answering why. Go and read them. See what they say. Then decide.

    Social Darwinism – which you are describing regarding nature informing moral actions – has been universally rejected. We can chose to live our lives without mimicking what we see in the natural world.

    As Dawkins mentions every time we use a condom, or take antibiotics, we are going against what nature intended.

  7. @John
    “If you want to calculate being good as a cost benefit analysis of being caught versus reward, that is a logic I would disagree with as being moral because the resulting behaviour is based on sanction and not because it is good.”

    I think your position is inconsistent. You say that you disagree with a morality based on a bad result (“sanction”) whereas mantaining a morality based on a bad result (“What would life be be like if everyone did this?”).

  8. @ISU: not all. I am moral because of the consequences on others of not being so; not the sanctions that might be imposed on me. Especially by a god.

    • John

      You have yet to explain to me why I have a moral obligation to do good and not do evil so far you have offered only the most preferable Society and I say so what what if I don’t care about society

  9. If you are a sociopath then moral reasoning like above explaining why you should be moral would not work. Wether theistic or humanistic for that matter. God or no god.

    On that note Merry Christmas!

  10. @John Sargeant

    OK. I was mistaken.

  11. It’s all still subjective if there isn’t a fixed and already existing morality. Without God, there cannot be one. Anything that a non-believe defends as morality will always be subjective and based upon what he, or the majority, says is so. If I can stand the consequences of rejecting that subjective morality, then my absolutely malevolent desires is moral as far as I’m concerned, and what pleases me is my idea of living a good life. I define good for myself regardless of anyone’s notion of God or anyone’s notion of morality. For me, good might be killing when it pleases me to do so, raping, stealing, lying…whatever makes my life more pleasing to me. While this is an extreme example, it illustrates the point regarding, “why should I care?” One might say I’m not a good person. Why should I care? If no one disagrees with the sentiment, but I can deal with the consequences, who’s to say my version of morality is false, unwise or unprofitable since I’m only concerned with myself.

    As it stands, as an average human being (maybe a bit more so :D), there is much I would change if what pleases me is to be the basis for morality. Yes, I would say that murder is a bad thing. But without God, that is true only because I don’t want to deal with the consequences of having murdered. I would say hate is bad, but again, without God, that is a matter of dealing with the results of my hatred. But both murder and hatred are not moral without God. They are only behaviors with consequences that might be difficult to weather.

  12. Atheists live in a world devoid of faith. That is a fundamental limitation. I don’t even see how it follows that “There is no afterlife” therefore “enjoy life now.” I think it’s just as reasonable to say “There is no afterlife” therefore “take as many others as you can with you when you go, because what the heck, why not?”

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