How can you justify a moral stance?

Without a god to explicitly justify moral beliefs, what basis is there for any moral belief? If there is no basis for moral belief, then is there any reason I shouldn’t steal, torture, or murder to get what I want in cases where I expect I can get away with it?

Posted: July 26th 2011

Tauriq Moosa www

1. You assume a god is not only necessary but sufficient to justify moral beliefs. This is merely an assertion and also is completely in line with all religious extremists.
2. Which 'god’?
3. Why not other gods?
4. You may be correct that without a basis for moral belief you may have no reason to murder, etc. but you equate “not believing in my particular god” with “having no basis in morality”. This is an unfounded appeal and a loaded claim, which no argument has been able to justify.
5. And to this day, we await a good reply to Euthyphro’s Dilemma

Posted: August 7th 2011

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Steve Zara www

is there any reason I shouldn’t steal, torture, or murder to get what I want in cases where I expect I can get away with it?

No. There is no reason. None. If you could get away with it, you might as well just go ahead. There’s a loaf of bread in a hungry child’s hand. Why not grab it? The child is young and no-one is looking. The child may die horribly of hunger, so you could manage to steal, torture and murder with one simple act.

Would you do it?

Posted: July 31st 2011

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Ophelia Benson www

Would you want to murder or torture someone “to get what you want”? Have you given it any thought? Have you thought – really thought – about what it would be like to murder someone?

Posted: July 30th 2011

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Mike the Infidel www

How can you justify a moral stance? If you believe your sins only ultimately matter to God, and he’ll forgive them all in an instant if you ask him to (and really mean it!), then is there any reason you shouldn’t steal, torture, or murder to get what you want in cases where you expect you can live long enough to repent afterward?

Posted: July 30th 2011

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donsevers www

Great question, but it applies equally to religion as to atheism.

Why should supernaturalism be the only possible justification for morality?

Even if we accept supernaturalism is required as a basis for morality, how would you choose which god to use as a moral basis?

Even if you settled on a certain god for your moral basis, you still have Euthyphro’s dilemma:

“Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”

If God commands things because they are good, we don’t need God to know what is good.

If something is good just because God commands it, then he could command opposing things and we would have to say they were both good. (This actually occurs in the Bible. God kills children, then commands us not to murder.)

In either case, we can’t rely on a god to know what is good.

We all struggle with morality, but it solves nothing to end the discussion by turning to a particular supernatural god.

More here:

Posted: July 29th 2011

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Daniel Midgley www

Reciprocal social dynamics. If you don’t want to live in a world where you can be robbed, tortured, or murdered, you’d better try and make sure those things don’t happen to anyone else.

How does having a god help justify moral beliefs, anyway? I wouldn’t describe obedience under threat from a more-powerful being as 'moral’. 'Craven’, perhaps.

Posted: July 29th 2011

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Philip www

Are you seriously telling me that without thoughts of a celestial dictator to answer to for your moral conduct you would go and do all of these things?

Ask yourself this – I came to the conclusion that gods were not real at the age of 8 years old but never really believed before then anyway – how come in all my 33 years on this planet I have not tortured, murdered, raped etc? What do you think is stopping me?

Funnily enough, there are those throughout the entirety of history have used their belief in their gods to commit some of the most reprehensible attrocities humankind has ever seen – think about how these gods have never so much as batted a celestial eyelid whilst their followers have commited these crimes.

A good example is the child rape attrocities committed by Catholic priests all over the world and the Pope’s involvement in covering it all up – this is the man supposedly the voice of God on the Earth covering up and ignoring child rape.

Being an atheist has nothing to do with moral behaviour and decision, making, you can’t use atheism for anything.

However, believing that your decisions should be made because you think you know the mind of an impossible deity and what they will do to you should you get it wrong is a dangerous and unhelpful way to live life and I would not reccomend it.

Posted: July 29th 2011

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brian thomson www

There is something of a semantic issue here too: exactly what is meant by “moral”?

At times in the past I’ve made a point of saying “I don’t have morals, but I do have ethics”, since I think that clarifies the nature of “morals” in a world without a source of absolute morality. Pick a crime – any crime – and ask yourself: why is it a crime? What is it, what happens, what are the results? If you don’t assume anything about morals up front, you can get to the bottom of why a crime is a crime.

Whenever I’ve done this, it always comes down to an examination of the harm done, and the totally reasonable wish to avoid such a fate for yourself. Whatever you can do to someone else, they can do to you in similar circumstances, and that’s sufficient reason to avoid it. Hence my personal emphasis on Ethics as opposed to morals: the former describes the way people agree on principles of behavior, while the latter describes implies an absolutist, dogmatic, do-as-you’re-told worldview that is simply redundant to an atheist. Still, I don’t mind words such as “crime” or “moral”, as long as they are used for a reason, and with an understanding of what they actually mean.

Posted: July 28th 2011

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bitbutter www

I’m aware of no basis for belief in the existence of mind-independent moral facts, whether or not gods exist.

So why refrain from murder in cases when you knew you could get away with it? There are a few possible reasons:

1. As an empathic being, you value the minimisation of suffering. Murdering a person can be expected to cause great suffering, to the victim as well as to their family and friends.

2. You don’t want to be plagued by the feelings of guilt that you know from experience haunt you when you treat others in a way you would not like to be treated yourself. You see yourself as the kind of person who doesn’t do that kind of thing, and maintaining this self-image is important to you.

3. Because the likely costs of being caught as a criminal are so great for you, it makes sense to cultivate a habit of unthinkingly 'doing the right thing’ at all times, whether or not someone is watching. This is the best safeguard against ever incurring those costs.

Posted: July 28th 2011

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