Thursday, March 12, 2009

On Finding Morals Postgod

I am sure that many of us have heard the absolutely hilarious myth that if you do not believe in a deity, or subscribe to a religion then you amoral. This is patently absurd and is best met with a bit of a chuckle.
Morality, as I see it, is derived from the feeling of empathy that we have.

Often the response is "Well, if there is no after life, what is the point?" It bothers me when this is the first thought about our morality. A desire for reward, or a fear of punishment, should not be the motivating factor for us to do good in this world. That is selfish and barely above self-preservation.

Morality is not something passive. It is not following the rules, and making sure all of your i's are dotted. No, it is something active. Something we must try to do, and do it only for the reason that we are here, now, and must live with our actions.

I do not need a god to judge me on this, for the worst judge is the one I must face in the mirror each morning. If I cannot live with what I have done to myself and my fellow man, then who can? I do not kill because to kill another is to void my own protest against someone killing me or those I love. To steal is to give up claim against others who take what is mine.

To live a moral life, all one must do is look at what they enjoy, and realize that without the order instilled by a basic moral code derived from basic human empathy it would likely disappear. It is not given to us by higher powers, it is not even authoritarian.

It is simply a social agreement between people that agree that mutual survival is greater than individual hedonistic pursuits and the dangers that those bring.

So, you do not need to look to the heavens to find what is the good path. You need only to look into a mirror and walk in the other person's shoes.

The other common claim is that godless morality is subjective. This is also false. There are some absolutes that manifest themselves. The problem with these absolutes is that they swim in an almost endless sea of gray special instances.

Is it always a bad thing to kill someone? I would argue that yes, it is. But what about the case of self defense? I would still say yes it is bad, but damned if it would stop me in defending myself and those that I care for.

Is it wrong to steal? Yes, obviously, you are taking what someone else has earned for yourself. But in the case of survival? Then the above case applies, but once again, I would not begrudge those who did it if it was a matter of life and death.

So what we have is a big machine that we have designed to protect ourselves and each other, that is held together with duct tape and boils down to don't fuck with each other and keep your hands to yourself. Do not cause harm, and do not hurt others for personal gain. Thats not that hard a concept, and we do not need a deity to help us through it.

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