Cruel Logic — The real consequence of a Godless morality

When discussing the origins of morality, most Atheists are willing to offer evolution as a viable option.  However, I believe it is obvious that the evolutionary process could not have produced moral imparitives.  If there is no afterlife, we should eat, drink, and be merry — for tomorrow we die. naturalism seems to entail 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 does not have grounded within it 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 worries about our actions are the personal discomforts associated with getting caught: imprisonment, public shame, loss of friendship, etc.

A cursory reflection on our own interactions with others should make this obvious. We punish those who would exploit the weak.  We look down on those who put their own self interest before others. We rebuke our children for not sharing their personal belongings (a trait found in every child).

How does the person who would accept that morality can be explained through the evolutionary process explain the fact that we actively condition ourselves to fight our base instincts which we possess because the naturalistic process has placed it in us?  Why do we not trust evolution’s outworkings in ourselves as it relates to morality that we have to fight it?  Did evolution get human instinct wrong?

Why should someone do the morally good thing?  If the answer employs culture or society, that is relativism, which isn’t morality, it’s preference.  If the answer appeals to flourishing, that is a form of utilitarianism, again not morality.  On an aside, I find Atheists become upset when I persist in asking why.  I understand that behaving aids in flourishing, but why should I care beyond my own self and immediate progeny?

The video below re-frames this otherwise academic debate and puts it into perspective.

Comments

  1. “most Atheists are willing to offer evolution as a viable option.” – even Richard Dawkins doesn’t hold this view, so claiming “most Atheists” here seems a bit strawman-ish.

    • Youre telling me that atheists dont offer as a source for morality, an evolutionary benefit for behaving?

      I beg to differ. Ive never met an atheist who didnt say that we can explain morality by evolution.

    • I’m not sure why Richard Dawkins would be a good indicator of the characteristics of most atheists. There doesn’t seem to be a good inference, so I’m not sure what the straw man is.

      A distinction that I think is helpful to both sides of the conversation is that evolution is an explanation for how moral behavior might have come to be. This is a very different project from establishing the reality of transcendent oughts (objective values and duties) that are teleological in nature.

  2. ” Ive never met an atheist who didnt say that we can explain morality by evolution.”

    Things like empathy evolve in organisms from a system of natural selection, indeed it is almost inevitable in groups. Empathy is one of the foundations of morality.

    But very few people have advocated “survival of the fittest” as a moral code to live by, other than some extreme libertarians and advocates of completely unfettered capitalism.

    • Thanks for commenting here Andrew.

      Im not suggesting that anyone says we should use survival of the fittest as the moral code, but they say we evolved our morals.

      But that isnt prescriptive, its descriptive. It tells us what we’ve done to get here, it tells what has helped flourish. It doesnt tell us what we should do.

      But another thing. Why should we fight our evolved instinct? Children need to be trained out of lying amd stealing. It seems to be that we dont need to be nice to flourish.

      Not only that, can you tell me why I should care about others amd not onlu about my family?

  3. You hit it right on the head John: {Evolution} “It doesn’t tell us what we should do”.

    A decisive difference between the two sides of this debate. Your flock needs to be told what to do. A part of the population cannot come to their own moral code and must be given it via the Bible/Koran.

    How exactly did humanity flourish before these Abrahamic faiths travelled the world?

    Maybe read the works on the subject from Harris, Dennett, E. O. Wilson, Wright and Singer’s “Expanding Circle”, to name just a few of the folks who have written and studied this for some time.

    Your hypothesis is flawed from the outset when you say, “However, I believe it is obvious that the evolutionary process could not have produced moral imparitives”.

    If not for your ardent belief in your god, how exactly would you have come to this “belief”?

    • Nash

      Its not that we need to be told what to do. I think we all know what we should and shouldnt do. But we also need a why. The evolutionary process of survival of the fittest is actually quite cruel, morally speaking. Im saying the fact that we have morality, a very strong inner prompting, tjat runs contrary to our instincts suggests there is something to explain it that isnt a result of evolution.

  4. It comes down to the same issue that the R.Nash’s of the world continually fail to resolve: Without God, morality is a human invention that has no real value except to those too weak and/or too timid to defend themselves against adversities. Without God, morality exists only where those in power insist it does and it is they who define it. For believers, morality exists regardless of whether or not we exist. Morality existed before Nash was born and it will exist after his passing. It is true for all of mankind.

    What the atheist likes to believe is morality without God is merely consensus opinion at best. This is proven by Nash’s own contention that the atheist doesn’t need to be told what to do. Does this mean that the atheist has discovered what is or isn’t moral without the aid of outside influence (God, for instance)? No. It means that the atheist has bought into whatever the consensus opinion is, if it so suits him, or has simply crafted for himself his own standards of right and wrong. That isn’t morality. It is only opinion of what is right or wrong.

    Without God, the atheist cannot explain what any action is right or wrong from a moral perspective. “Anything that harms another is clearly immoral.” But why? Says who? What does it matter to me who is harmed as long as it is never me? I may have my own reasons for not harming, but they are inevitably self-serving. Rarely will the atheist act against his own profit potential. He will first alter his concept of morality before acting at all so as to prevent charges of having acted immorally. Nothing is off limits. All can be justified.

    Side bar: That it is true that not all atheists operate in this manner, or that many believers do, is irrelevant to the truth of this point.

    In the same way, what is seen as good is equally malleable. “If it feels good, do it” is not a Judeo-Christian concept. It is an atheist or godless concept, whereby “good” is based upon how it feels to the perpetrator. That motto is a summation of all that atheists require for determining what is good or right.

    The video John offered in his post is an excellent illustration of the problem of “Godless morality”. The captor is taking the atheist concept to its logical conclusion, leaving the captive to find a way to rationalize why the captor is wrong. It can’t be done.

    • Equating morality to match whoever is in power is an old and inaccurate adage. What about the treatment of animals in spite of having no power over them? Consider that morality existed before your god treated millions cruelly for thousands of years. Why do I treat people I don’t know the same way I treat people I know well? I am leery of the thought that you think you know the answers to these questions so absolutely.

      To continue to say that a non believers morality is slippery and undefined is the same gibberish that gets passed around in the insulated far right circles. To what end?

      I still fail to see how Christianity can be considered a moral religion or the Bible a moral guide.

      Try to remember that just because you bring your religious bias to a conversation that doesn’t require it, will never make you right to anyone but yourselves. Don’t let your non understanding lead you to condemning another’s position or opinion.

      Please do read some of the authors I mention earlier with regards to the evolutionary etiology of your belief in god and morality.

  5. “What about the treatment of animals in spite of having no power over them?”

    How is the treatment of animals a matter of morality? The only way I can agree would have to be because God made us stewards of the earth and animals are a part of this earth. There is no other reason that isn’t mere personal opinion. If I kill the neighbor’s cat, there is no problem for me unless the neighbor finds out and is pissed about it. There could be legal repercussions which may or may not be of concern to me personally provided I’m willing and able to navigate them. But what about the cat? Who cares? It’s a cat and there are plenty more where that one came from. What if I just light its tail on fire? What good fun that would be? Doesn’t the cat suffer? So what?

    Personally, I don’t abuse animals, except when I eat them or wear their skins or survive disease because treatments were first tested on them. Otherwise, I love animals and don’t wish to see them abused by others. Mainly, however, of greatest concern is what the abuse of animals by others says about the abuser and human concern should be for that person before that person turns to abusing other people. Better that only animals were abused by such people than other people.

    But I digress. There is nothing immoral about abusing animals except for the fact that by doing so one proves one’s self a poor steward of God’s creation. YOU might think that abusing animals makes one an asshole, but that’s just your opinion. If most people agree with you, it is a consensus opinion and nothing more.

    “Consider that morality existed before your god treated millions cruelly for thousands of years.”

    Two problems here:

    1st—Nothing existed before God, since God has always existed. What’s more, my contention is that He dictates morality and it is our job to discover what constitutes morality.

    2nd—God never treated anyone cruelly. He treated them justly. Just punishment is “cruel” as any malevolent behavior. Focusing on the suffering of the convicted due to their just punishment is dishonest as punishment without discomfort is not punishment. What’s more, “cruel” is a matter of personal opinion. It is subjective. Even for the person upon whom “cruel” action is inflicted. “Never knew what hit him”. Does it ever really happen that way? If so, a quick death might not be cruel at all.

    “Why do I treat people I don’t know the same way I treat people I know well?”

    Because you choose to. You have decided, by your own reasoning or through the influence of others, that it is “right” and “good” and “the moral thing to do”. But nothing binds you to that beyond your own existence and your decision to continue in that manner. Believers do it for God’s glory and sake, which still provides the same benefit to those “others” and one’s self, even if doing so brings consequences not profitable. It even benefits one’s self when such behavior is recognized by no one, nor does not particularly make one feel good for doing so. This is lacking with no God, what’s more, it is not a moral action just for the doing. The atheist merely chooses to label it so. For the believer, it is moral regardless of who else agrees, or even if no one agrees.

    “I still fail to see how Christianity can be considered a moral religion or the Bible a moral guide.”

    Then you are unique even among atheists, many of whom have no problem seeing the religion as a moral one and the Bible a moral guide. In your case, you failure to see this means you need to study it more deeply, if you’ve ever even truly studied it at all.

    “Try to remember that just because you bring your religious bias to a conversation that doesn’t require it, will never make you right to anyone but yourselves.”

    1st—Have you even read the title of this post? It indeed is a discussion of religion versus no religion. (Or God or no God)

    2nd—Any discussion on morality indeed requires bringing religion into play. You will only ever be dealing with subjective opinion without religion in the mix.

    “Please do read some of the authors I mention earlier with regards to the evolutionary etiology of your belief in god and morality.”

    Pick from your list the one that best provides actual proof of the contention and I’ll see what I can do to squeeze it into my tight schedule. I am not confident that any of them even comes close to doing so. I AM confident that all of them try to draw links between behaviors and subjective reasons as to why those behaviors are thought either good or bad. But pick one and I’ll try.

  6. vincedeporter says:

    I just read this, and of course, I respectfully disagree on some statements made.
    So if I may…

    //We look down on those who put their own self interest before others. We rebuke our children for not sharing their personal belongings (a trait found in every child).//

    I wonder who said that? It is one of the most incorrect things I have read.
    I work with children, I have children, and I can assure you that most are ready to share, even to a fault! There are few “bad apples” that don’t want to share for sure, but just stand back and look at how the other kids react to this trait. No… we are not not “naturally” devoid of Morals.

    //Without God, the atheist cannot explain what any action is right or wrong from a moral perspective.//

    I am moral simply because I want to leave this world a little better than when I came in, if only for my children. I think I’m not the only one that loves the idea of my descendents being ‘prepared’ to good social skills and emotional intelligence. I don’t need the spectre of eternity to push me, I just need the well-being of my family and society as a whole to urge me to being as good as I can be.

    I’m a simple man. I love, I cry, I laugh — etc… in my deepest fiber I feel the NEED to be morally good. The consequences on myself are irrelevant — my concern are the others, in particular my loved ones. The example of this movie clip is clearly on of a sick mind, that uses philosophy to excuse his dark and inexistant morality.
    Those who lack empathy are sociopaths.

    It has nothing to do with gods, beliefs, or science — although science may understand some of the brain activity related to behavior.
    It has to do with our gradual sense of well being and a need to collaborate to a better society that also protect our loved ones.

    Picking up sticks on a “Holy day” has nothing to do with morality, yet one was stoned for it in the Mosaic Law.

    Here’s my personal theory:
    MORALITY IS EMPATHY IN ACTION.
    (Immorality is the lack of empathy.)

    • Vince.
      Wanting to leave the world a better place is not morality, it’s your preference. At any time you could change and dont have to want to leave it a better place.

      • vincedeporter says:

        I respectfully disagree.
        Anyone who does not contribute to a more harmonious world and a more loving one. or even hurts the earth and it’s inhabitants, is in essence immoral.

        I fear your understanding of ‘morality’ is as if the Bible invented the concept of good. I argue it has not.

        What is the definition of Morality to you?
        More importantly, WHY do you define it that way?

  7. vincedeporter says:

    My concerns are:

    How is the Bible a standard for moral principles, when we accept behavior from God that we would never accept from humans? Shouldn’t He be the ultimate example of pure Morals?
    (Again, how is picking up sticks on a “Holy day” a matter of morality?
    And how is eternal punishment for a short life of “missing the mark” moral and just?)

    I also want to argue that leaving the world a better place cannot be in any way a preference. It’s a logical step to further our progress. I contend that Morality must at least obey to logic to be in any way a positive force.

    Morality is by definition the “ensemble of principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.” The question is, in relation to what, or who?
    If morality is not within us to better our species (and all the other species), and to care for our home planet — then what is it for?

    I fear that when I was a theist, I wanted to attribute morality as a quality only God could understand, and control… until I realized throughout his Word that he rarely applies the rules to himself. So I respectfully must disagree that God is the author of objective morals.

  8. vincedeporter says:

    Huge subject for me, so please excuse my passion.

    Here is a simple argument against the morality of the Abrahamic God. Since I’m sure you’ve heard this many times, all I ask is your reasons to believe this is just and moral.

    Roy is a serial killer on death row for murdering and abusing children all his life, who hurt everyone around him for his own wicked pleasure, Fully understanding what he has done, he finally accepts Christ. He still gets the chair, but he goes to heaven for having accepted Christ in the nick of time.

    Aadi is a good man. He is sincere Hindu. He has been an exemplary father and husband his whole life. He helped his community, and even died saving someone from a fire. He goes to hell for eternity — I repeat, ETERNITY — because he never accepted Christ, as Christ was the furthest thing from his culture.

    You REALLY call that objective moral justice?
    If so, I really would like to know why, and how you concluded to that.

    • Vince

      Both men lived a life of sin. Both need a remedy or pay for their own sins. One accepts the remedy the other does not.

      We cany bribe God with good deeds. Our good deeds dont counter balance our bad. There is a way to have your sins forgiven.

      What does is hundu man’s good deeds supposed to do for him? He rejects the only option.

      If God were a human judge who refused to carry out the law because the defendant was a “good husband and father” youd call for him to lose his job, wouldnt you?

  9. vincedeporter says:

    //Both men lived a life of sin. Both need a remedy or pay for their own sins. One accepts the remedy the other does not.//

    I don’t think I have explained myself well enough.
    You are arguing as if it is understood that your belief is the right one, from inside your own chosen source to trust. The statement that this is the only option is a slap in the face of reason and the fact that 4/5th of this world doesn’t come close to your idea of Truth.

    We cannot judge each other on the standards we have chosen to trust, while the other’s life is built on a totally different paradigm.
    It’s like arguing how to hit the soccer ball to a golfer. Two different worlds.

    How can you rationalize my example above and compare the two men’s life at all?

    In doing that, you are dismissing the fact of why Aadi has never even remotely looked towards your Christ, and the idea of sin according to your own choice of reference.
    You are assuming he even considered your Religion as an option at all — when there are many religions you don’t even give a second thought of yourself.

    What in fact all of us should be asking ourselves is:
    HOW do we know what we know?
    WHY do we choose to trust one paradigm/source over another?
    WHAT journey brought us to those sources?

    You should read my article on why in the deepest sense we must respect everyone’s opinion. Before arguing what we consider fact, we must first answer on WHY we as humans choose the sources to trust.
    http://vincedeporter.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/we-are-all-independent-thinkers/

  10. vincedeporter says:

    //If God were a human judge who refused to carry out the law because the defendant was a “good husband and father” youd call for him to lose his job, wouldnt you?//

    Here, you are confusing sin and crime. Is “missing the mark” more egregious than the abuse and killing of children?

    Are you really telling me that Roy the serial killer will get everlasting blessings for a couple of months regretting a lifetime of crime, and Aadi the crimeless man will get everlasting Hell for just ignoring a cultural belief that has no referential handles for him to hold on to?

    You cannot wonder why morally driven freetinkinkers would resent this notion.

  11. vincedeporter says:

    Because make no mistake, the Bible is just a cultural reference. Sure it it has people all over the world that convert to Christianity — but if that was a valid argument, then the Qur’an must be the better truth since more are converting to Islam all over the world.
    Atheism is also changing the world in all cultures, do you hear me saying that it’s the Truth because of it?

    The important thing is to be consistent with our arguments. Jesus is a cultural icon. Not a Universal one.

    • Jesus is the universal remedy. He is not a sage or a good teacher. Salvation is jot a cultural thing even if it is believed by some to be.

      • vincedeporter says:

        How do you explain that? There were prophets and different religions before and after him — what is your evidence that HE is the Universal remedy.

        To me that is just a statement of Faith. Nothing more (nor less).

        • Vince

          It can be demonstrated that a religious system could be false. I summarized HERE which also links to full posts going into more depth.

          I dont think just anyone can make the claim to be a prophet of God, it needs to be demonstrated. The JWs for example, (I didnt mention this in the linked post above) have made many false prophesies while claiming to be the mouthpiece for God. I think it is safe to say that if one speaks false prophesies in the name of the God they claim, they can be said to either be false prophets, or worshiping a false God.

    • If youre viewing Jesus as a cultural icon, you are misunderstanding the claims about Jesus that are made by Christianity.

  12. vincedeporter says:

    //If youre viewing Jesus as a cultural icon, you are misunderstanding the claims about Jesus that are made by Christianity.//

    Let’s think about that statement for a minute.

    First to be clear, what I meant is that Jesus is no more a proven God than Allah is for the Muslims, or Thor for the Norse. All of these are cultural icons that have little bearing on each other. I stand behind that obvious statement.

    Of course, that does NOT mean Jesus is not the right One — and the same frame of thought applies to all the other gods. But it means we need more than just a personal statement to argue the existence and more importantly the moral integrity of any one self-claimed god — if any at all.

    Hopefully, this being clarified, I agree that the claim of Jesus being the True Saviour and God is a claim made by Christianity. So what makes this claim superior to any other religion’s claim? What evidence makes Christianity the “one”.

    If you have read my article linked above, why and how have you concluded Christianity as a source of trust? Was it thru logical and evidential realization (how), or was it an emotional gut-feeling (why)?

    • Vince

      //Jesus is no more a proven God than Allah is for the Muslims, or Thor for the Norse//

      This is demonstrably false. What do you know about Islam’s origins and the Quran? What do you know about Thor’s origins and documentation? This is important because a claim like yours is made routinely without familiarity of other religious systems.

  13. vincedeporter says:

    First point — yes indeed, the JWs is a great example of repeated false prophesies.

    Secondly, yes, I have studied the Qur’an with an fundamentalist Imam for a few years in France, and it’s claims of divine word. I have found it just as wrong as the Bible. I’ve also studied other religions and philosophies like Buddhism. Of course, I know more about the Bible for having taught it.

    But here’s the interesting thing; You are deflecting my claim that Jesus is no more a proven God than the others, as if not knowing the others as well has anything to do with my statement. This is a non sequitur — as if one needs to know all the doctors to have the right to dismiss one of them as a charlatan.

    But you are saying that my statement is demonstrably false. How so?
    Please demonstrate.

    * (I just want to remind you that this is just a friendly discussion. I have no wish to change your mind on anything. But I’m trying to understand your thinking, while comparing it to mine. I have great respect for you, as I think you know.)

  14. vincedeporter says:

    I can work on organizing my thoughts to prove the inconsistency of Christian Faith. I never attempted that exercise to be honest… never thought I had to. But you made good points in your article “Why I’m not a…”

    I will try. It will take some time to organize and analyse my notes, but I should indeed be able to make a reasonable case. For now I have a lot arguments scattered around…

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