Debate 013: Ernest and Blair debate ethical Atheism

NOTE: This is a rebuttal and single-response only. Ernest never rebutted my response. He may have just been looking for answers or never expected a response. However, his email title “Another one bites the dust” led me to believe that he was going to be an interesting debate… alas…

Ernest Rebuttal #001:

Thank you for being openly invitive to people e-mailing you. I know that some people who profess to atheists are really stingy in that in whatever gentle manner that I explain my beliefs in Christianity, they still just mock me and throw insults, and sometimes curses. Likewise, there are those people who profess to be Christians, and whenever an atheist tries to gently explain to them their viewpoint, the person professing to be a Christian proves to be nasty. However, I am glad that you are a kind gentleman in that you wouldn’t be nasty to me. You and I may be straightforward with each other, but being nasty is not the way to go.

I first wanted to comment about your statments of atheists being victim of bigotry and prejudice. The truth is, however, that there are by far more Christians who are victim to these attacks than there are atheists. There really aren’t that many cases where atheists are attacked in the liberal media. I see that the persecuted are mainly Christians or conservatives.

Second, I would like to define to you, exactly what a Christian is. A true Christian is one who has been converted by the Holy Spirit to trust in Christ. Therefore, that person has their sins payed for and they can now pass into eternal life, not because they deserve it. The truth is that not one person deserves salvation. We all deserve God’s judgment for rebelling against him. Every single human being is a sinner. If that human being does not trust in Christ as His personal Lord and Savior, that means that the individual will have to pay for their sins themselves in eternal punishment.

To be a true Christian, one also has to be patient, kind, loving, generous, moral, and godly. So, a Christian is not a person who just believes everything he is told because he was born in a Christian-filled area, but one who has been converted by the grace of God. I consider being saved a blessing since it prevents me from paying for my sins as a I deserve. To say that I’m a “victim” of Christianity, would be just like saying that I am a victim to a person who has helped me, regardless of how nasty I was to that person.

I would just like to ask you what is your standard of morality. How can you call anything evil, evil. In an atheistic universe, how can you define what is evil? Besides that, even if what you said was in fact evil, in your universal understanding of the world, it could not be evil, tomorrow. I know that atheists believe in a chance universe. If that is true, then 1+1=2 today, but that may not be that case, tomorrow.

I would plead with you, Mr. Scott to turn to Christ in repentance and except Him as your savior. You must do it now, because after death comes, God offers no second chances.

P.S. I find it hard to believe the contradiction in Islam, when Muslims say that Jesus was a prophet. They then turn around and say that Jesus was not the savior. How can that be when Jesus as a prophet professes to be the savior of the world, and declares Himself, divine.

P.S.S. You told anyone not to send conversation e-mail. I don’t think that mine was conversational, because of the fact that mine is not much longer than many of the others that have been on the debate section of your web page. (I’m pretty sure he meant “conversion email.”)

 

Response to Ernest #001:

Thank you for your comments. To make things easier I will address different parts of your letter individually.

ERNEST: “…they still just mock me and throw insults, and sometimes curses.”

I have witnessed this on several occasions and it bothers me. When I see atheists behaving in this manner I will speak up in defense of the Christian or other religionist. Regardless of the motive of the atheist, this type of behavior is unbecoming and inappropriate. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when mocking and poking fun of others is appropriate, just as any joking is only appropriate in certain times and places.

Appropriateness aside, the motive of such behavior is important to at least understand. After discussing such issues with atheists that have resorted to such behavior, I have found that most of them don’t have a hatred or loathing for Christians, but that they are basically frustrated and that frustration is being taken out on the Christian or other religionist that they were talking to. They are frustrated at being the victims of ignorance and hatred and they are lashing out. They don’t do it out of spite – they do it out of frustration. Unfortunately, this frustration can be vented onto a religionist that would have not been one to resort to such tactics as to cause that frustration in the beginning. You are probably a good example of such a religionist.

You approach in friendship and a search for understanding and you are made the recipient of vented frustrations built up from encounters with your brothers in Christ that were not so friendly and understanding. Your best bet is to not take it personally and understand the reasons for it. Even I have been known to do this when things get really bad. I’ll address that next.

ERNEST: “Likewise, there are those people who profess to be Christians, and whenever an atheist tries to gently explain to them their viewpoint, the person professing to be a Christian proves to be nasty.”

This is exactly what I was referring to above. This type of behavior is what causes the frustration. To try to compare the two is a little unfair however. The Christians clearly outnumber atheists in this country (and other religions, as well) and the number of offenders that are your brethren in Christ are certainly greater than any offending atheists. While I certainly condemn such behavior, a small part of me wants to applaud them for restraining themselves to mocking and ridiculing in speech and type.

There are many other things they could do, such as violent acts, which they do not resort to. They vent their frustrations in a healthy manner, healthy in the sense that it doesn’t cause physical harm, but unhealthy in other social aspects. Because the atheist is the minority it is imperative that he or she maintain the highest standards at all time and remain above the constant squabble and quibble that we see in the religionists around the world.

Perhaps I can make this a bit more personal so you understand why I see their mocking behavior as restraining, regardless of whether the behavior is good or bad. The religionists in my area, Southern Baptists in particular, have been very nasty to me. I have had a cross planted in my yard. I have received death threats via email. I have had death threats and other warnings drawn and written on paper and placed under my windshields. My car has been bashed in twice. My bumper stickers have been stolen on numerous occasions. My children have been harassed at school. I was threatened to be fired over my atheism and only retained my job at the threat of a religious discrimination lawsuit.

All this happened BEFORE I became an activist. It was BECAUSE of this behavior that I felt Atheism Awareness was necessary. I also formed an atheist group in my city and started writing articles for a freethought newspaper. As expected, my activism only made it worse.

I have yet to hear of a group of atheists committing such atrocities. They may mock you, they may tease you and they may call you “brainwashed” or any other adjective – but they are not doing any physical harm. If I had it my way, they wouldn’t mock you or tease you, either, but I have to at least commend them for not resorting to the often-violent behavior we see coming from the religionists’ side. There are no atheist suicide bombers. There are no atheists blowing up abortion clinics. There are no atheist shooters taking out doctors. There are no atheists calling for war against the Muslims.

I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. I deplore violence and commend atheists for not resorting to it like religionists have. At the same time, I want to go beyond such and elevate beyond the mocking and ridicule as well. Until that time arrives, when atheists behave in a 100% exemplary manner, we can be appreciative that atheists are not violent like religionists.

ERNEST: “…that there are by far more Christians who are victim to these attacks than there are atheists.”

To be frank, that statement is absolute nonsense. The only cases where I see Christians being victims of bigotry and severe prejudice is in cases where the perpetrator is a fellow Christian or practitioner of another religion. Christians are victims of such in India. Atheists aren’t doing it – Hindus are. Christians are victims of such in the Middle East. Atheists aren’t doing it – Muslims are.

What is the atheist going through in those countries? He or she is getting it from both sides. Atheists in India and Pakistan are tried for treason and beheaded. Atheists in the Middle East are tried for blasphemy with the mandatory sentence of death. In the United States atheists are supposed to be protected, but they are constantly victims of harassment and brutality. Not just atheists, either. Any religious minority in the United States can be the victim of such.

Four atheist high school students in my area were the victims of constant torment and physical abuse. During lunch at the school the captain of the football team would stand up and begin a prayer. Everyone stood up except the four atheists. They were respectful and remained quiet during the prayer. They didn’t tease or mock – they remained quiet in respect for the religion of others. What did they get in return? They got food thrown at them. They got beat up. They got kicked and punched in the halls by your brethren in Christ.

A Jewish family in Troy, Alabama asked that a prayer given at school be generic in order to appeal to all religionists and not just Christians. What did this bring on them? Constant harassment, death threats, the kids beaten up at school, the father losing his job and no one willing to hire them. They were forced to move.

An atheist in the Wiregrass area complained about the teachers sending their kids home with religiously oriented materials. What did this bring them? They were ostracized and ridiculed by the entire community. The kids were threatened at school. The principle even pulled a stunt by keeping the school bus from picking up the kids and then trying to get the parent in trouble for truancy. The family was forced to move.

A high school senior challenged the Christ-laden graduation prayer that was supposed to be generic. He was beat up, ostracized, ridiculed and ultimately forced out of his home. Ultimately the stigma of the event led him to leave the state.

When I hear about Christians that are victims of similar hatred I ask where the hatred was coming from. What I always hear, at least in the United States, is that the hatred was coming from other Christians. The Baptists hate the Catholics, the Methodists hate the Assembly of God, the Adventists hate the Lutherans and everyone hates the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Criticism of the dogma, rites and rituals is not harassment. Criticism of policy and procedure is not harassment. Criticism of texts and claims of historicity is not harassment. Harassment is the continued threat of physical or emotional violence. I only see harassment coming from the Christian side here in the United States. Just look at the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland and how that violence has carried over a couple of times into Boston.

The Muslim community is learning first-hand what it means to be a victim of Christian love. And Christians wonder why they hate them…

ERNEST: “There really aren’t that many cases where atheists are attacked in the liberal media.”

Absolute nonsense. Every talk show I’ve watched where an atheist was the guest, the atheist was berated and called names. Of course Christ called people names, too, so I guess calling people names is a Christian behavior (…ye Vipers!). The only time I see Christians berated in the “liberal media” is when they are covering a Christian that has done physical damage or harm to someone or something, such as an abortion clinic.

Most of the talk shows have a left and right representative, one who berates and one who defends. The media, in the talk show sense, cannot be considered as a source of “harassment” of anyone. Talk shows are meant to be aggressive and create a scene that gets people’s attention.

Just last night I watched Crossfire with Jerry Falwell on it. They were talking about how Graham had called Islam an “evil and wicked religion”. No one harassed Falwell or called him names. They did question him on a few things he said that were not true or were over-exaggerated to his benefit, but they were respectful. Even the lefty on the show treated him respectfully.

Perhaps the biggest reason that we see Christians getting a bad name in the press is because the most vocal Christians, the ones that love the media, are the biggest asses that speak out in the name of Christ. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and others like them are media hogs that go out of their way to get on talk shows. If Christianity doesn’t get better spokesmen for the media then they will continue to be snickered at from the sidelines. The talk show host doesn’t have to say anything most of them time – the Christian guest usually digs his or her own hole.

About two months ago an atheist was the guest on Crossfire. What happened then? Did the left defend and the right berate? Nope – they both berated. Why? Because neither wanted to be seen by the public as supporting an atheist. People in high public places have often made statements against atheists that have astounded me. Statements have been made, that if made by replacing atheist with the word black, would have caused national uproar. Statements like, “Atheists should not hold public office” or “Atheists should not be considered citizens of this country” or “I’d never let an atheist baby-sit my children”. Those are actual statements made by celebrities and politicians, by the way.

Could you imagine if Star Jones had said, “I’d never let a Hispanic baby-sit my children. You can’t trust them.” No one seems to care when the atheists is the victim of discrimination. It was odd hearing Jones’ anti-atheist comments on the air. It was odd because as an overweight black woman you’d think she’d know a thing or two about discrimination.

ERNEST: “I see that the persecuted are mainly Christians or conservatives.”

I’d like you to clarify this statement about persecution. How do you persecute someone on TV?

ERNEST: “Second, I would like to define to you, exactly what a Christian is. […]”

The entire paragraph that you wrote is irrelevant. A Christian is easy to define. “Christ” denotes “the anointed one” and -ian denotes “a follower of”. Therefore a Christian is “a follower of the anointed one”. What that means is that a True Christian (TM) is one that has accepted Jesus as the Christ and all the baggage that comes with it. That’s it.

If someone says they accept Christ as their savior then they are a True Christian. This thing lately about trying to say that Christianity’s offenders were not “True Christians” (TM) is absolutely bogus. If they believed that Jesus was the Christ then they were True Christians. If they didn’t believe Jesus was the Christ then they were Jesusians (followers of Jesus).

ERNEST: “…that means that the individual will have to pay for their sins themselves in eternal punishment.”

This is moral how? Basically what you are saying is that Jesus said, “Worship me or I’ll torture you forever.” Even if Jesus did exist he would not be worthy of worship just for that alone. You don’t force people to follow you and worship you by threatening to burn them for eternity. It’s immoral and it’s a good example of what we’ve been talking about. Jesus would persecute me just for not believing in him – giving credence to the same behavior by your brethren in Christ.

ERNEST: “So, a Christian is not a person who just believes everything he is told because he was born in a Christian-filled area…”

Correct. A Christian is someone that accepts Jesus as The Christ. You missed the point I was making with the “victim of geography” statement that I made on the web page. You are Christian not because of any truth to what you have accepted. You are a Christian because you were raised in a predominantly Christian area. If you had been raised in India we would be arguing over the dogma of Hinduism and the historicity of Vishnu. If you had been raised in Iran we would be arguing over the dogma of Islam and the historicity of Muhammad.

The only reason we are discussing Christianity is not because of any “revealed truth”, but because you were born and raised in a predominantly Christian area. You are a victim of geography and demographics.

ERNEST: “I would just like to ask you what is your standard of morality. How can you call anything evil, evil.”

My standard of morality is easy. Each human being has only one life to live and that’s it. That means each human life should be respected. The key to morality is happiness. Happiness for everyone involved – not just on an individual basis. For example, a rapist is “happy” when he’s raping, but because his actions cause unhappiness to someone else, then his action is therefore immoral. The happiness must not be at the expense of the happiness of others. The greatest amount of happiness for all involved without being at the expense of the happiness of others is the path to good morality.

Atheists are more moral than most Christians. This is not just some abstract statement that I’m making, either. This is obvious in every form of statistic and accumulated data concerning morality. Atheists have the lowest divorce rate in the nation. 1 out of 4 Christians is likely to be a perpetrator of domestic abuse against their wives. This number increases to 1 out of 3 when talking about Christian Fundamentalists. The murder rate in the Bible Belt is the highest in the nation per capita. Christians occupy 85% of the prison population and roughly 70% of the national population. Atheists occupy .01% of the prison population and roughly 14% of the national population.

If morality was a religious issue then one would expect to find a greater number of non-religious in the prisons, a greater number of non-religious in the divorce courts and a greater number of non-religious in the domestic abuse courts. What we have seen historically and statistically is that religion is a greater path to immorality. That doesn’t mean that all religionists are immoral – that is certainly not the case. What it does mean is that a religionist is up to twenty times more likely to be immoral.

ERNEST: “In an atheistic universe, how can you define what is evil?”

Evil is a religious concept – so it would need no definition in an atheistic universe. If the religious concept of evil where an issue that I was forced to decide on then I would have to say that evil is what is done to prevent happiness on the parts of others.

ERNEST: “I know that atheists believe in a chance universe. If that is true, then 1+1=2 today, but that may not be that case, tomorrow.”

Why not? A constant is a constant – regardless of anyone’s worldview. Perhaps you can come up with a better analogy to make your point? I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

ERNEST: “I would plead with you, Mr. Scott to turn to Christ in repentance and except Him as your savior. You must do it now, because after death comes, God offers no second chances.”

Been there, done that – nothing happened. I hope you didn’t assume that I was never a Christian. If your Bible-God exists then he is not worthy of worship. Anyone with a sense of morality that has read the Bible would understand that the Bible-God is unworthy of worship.

ERNEST: “I find it hard to believe the contradiction in Islam, when Muslims say that Jesus was a prophet. They then turn around and say that Jesus was not the savior. How can that be when Jesus as a prophet professes to be the savior of the world, and declares Himself, divine.”

Perhaps you should read the Qu’ran then – so you can believe it. Remember that the Muslims think that the Bible is a bunch of bologna, just like me. They think that the Christian sect of Judaism is a lost cause because they believe that Jesus never died on the cross. The Surah is explicit when it says, “They think that he died and resurrected unto Allah. He did not die. He lived on and continued his work as a prophet for Allah.”

Debate 006: Adam and Blair debate morality

Adam Rebuttal #001:

You’ll get a full answer to your questions and arguments as soon as I get the time to write down my answer. Until then, I have a question that atheism must answer in some way. That is, where do people gain their sense of morals – their conscience?

Response to Adam #001:

ADAM: “Until then, I have a question that atheism must answer in some way.”

Atheism must answer nothing. Atheism is simply the lack of belief in god(s) – that’s it. You are still assuming that atheism means more than this.

To understand humanity and the morality thereof you need to understand the cycles of society behavior and establishment. For example, I can answer your question as an individual, as a member of the human race (humanity), or as a member of many societies. These societies are:

  • Immediate Family Society (spouse & offspring).
  • Extended Family Society (all other relatives).
  • Neighborhood Society (surrounding homes).
  • Cultural Society (religion, sex, gender, activities, hobbies, etc).
  • Village/Town/City Society.
  • State Society.
  • Country Society.
  • World Society.

Each of us plays a different role in each of those societies. Within each major category of society are mini-societies that we participate in both directly and indirectly. As a member of each society – we are required to justify ourselves to said societies. Take away the society – and the need for justification (or morality – which is a higher form of justification) goes away.

ADAM: “That is, where do people gain their sense of morals – their conscience?”

Since I obviously know where you are going with this let me first establish some requirement on the subject of “God is required for morality”.

What morals have your God dictated to you? Remember that laws of worship have nothing to do with morality – so “have no idols before me” is not a moral issue. Also remember that laws of justice have nothing to do with established morality – so stoning someone to death for adultery is not a moral issue. The adultery is the moral issue and not the punishment. Also remember that laws are not morality, either. So “eat no pork” is not a moral issue – it is a law. Please write down every moral established by your God.

The reason I ask this is because before you can assert that there can be no morality without belief in a God you must prove several issues:

  1. There can be morality with the belief in God.
  2. God is a good moral role model.
  3. God does not promote, condone, endorse, or sanctify immorality.
  4. God defines morality and the morals thereof clearly and concisely.
  5. God adheres to his definition of morality and the morals thereof.

Once you have done that then you can begin to assert that there can be no morality without belief in a God. Once you assert it – you’ll have to prove it. You will have to prove that atheistic religions (such as Buddhism) are immoral. Or you will have to prove that atheistic beliefs derive their morality from God.

At least you associate morality with the conscience. That’s a step in the right direction. Most Christians that I debate with refuse to associate the two as the same thing. They see the conscience as a “scientific” brain function that can dictate right from wrong based on our life’s experiences, the laws of our societies (even if they are based on religious ideologies), our senses, our memory, and the experiences of others.

Adam Rebuttal #002:

BLAIR: “Each of us plays a different role in each of those societies. Within each major category of society are mini-societies that we participate in both directly and indirectly. As a member of each society – we are required to justify ourselves to said societies. Take away the society – and the need for justification (or morality – which is a higher form of justification) goes away.”

So our morality is just a social convention? What is it based on – what’s best for society? I would think not. After all, is it not ‘better’ for society, in the evolutionary sense, if only the strongest and smartest people survive? That would make it morally right to kill our parents, people with disabilities – anyone who is weaker than we are. This seems to me not the case. Also, if morality is just a convention of whatever society we belong to, it would be morally correct for me to join an Amazon tribe that has no qualms about killing any outsiders that come into their territory. Would that not be morally right?

BLAIR: “What morals have your God dictated to you? Remember that laws of worship have nothing to do with morality – so “have no idols before me” is not a moral issue. Also remember that laws of justice have nothing to do with established morality – so stoning someone to death for adultery is not a moral issue. The adultery is the moral issue and not the punishment. Also remember that laws are not morality, either. So “”eat no pork”” is not a moral issue — it is a law. Please write down every moral established by your God.”

I am speaking not of revealed law (laws written down in the bible), but that sense of right and wrong with which every human, to some extent, is born. That sense of right and wrong may be suppressed by the society the person grows up with, but they are still born with it. This law I am speaking of may be called the Law of Human Nature: A ‘voice’ in their mind that tells them to be unselfish. A little voice that tells us we ought to do something or ought not to do something. We often don’t like what the voice tells us, after all, to follow it we would have to be unselfish. So, many people ignore the voice. This is what makes it different from the various instincts people are born with. Instincts are very hard, if impossible, to suppress. But conscience can be suppressed and ignored. Nor is it an evolutionary instinct or urge. After all, sometimes what our conscience tells us to do puts our own safety on the line. (For example, helping people who are in danger)

BLAIR: “The reason I ask this is because before you can assert that there can be no morality without belief in a God you must prove several issues:”

I am not (yet) tying conscience or our moral sense to the Christian and Hebrew God. I am simply saying that the conscience cannot be just a social convention, or some evolutionary mechanism.

The basic law of our conscience is to be unselfish. Everything else our conscience tells us is a subcategory of that.

Unselfishness is exactly the opposite of what evolutionary instinct would be – the preservation of one’s self. Some sense of right and wrong is found in all cultures and societies. The extent to which they adhere to the code differs, but all have it.

In no culture is selfishness admired very much. The extent of acceptable selfishness varies from culture to culture. In some on must only be unselfish to one’s family. In others, also to one’s country, or community.

The only reason anyone can be held to a moral law is that it is imposed by someone higher than humans. If our moral are dictated simply by our society, then no society’s moral code is any more right or wrong than ours.

Thus, Nazi Germany would have been in the right when they killed thousands of Jews and tried to enforce their governments on other societies. After all, they were following their own moral code. So why did people fight the Nazis? Because they didn’t want to belong to the fascist political party? You might say that it was in order to protect their rights and freedom that they fought back. Then my question is to you, what made them think that they were entitled to those freedoms? The fact that someone decided they should have them? The fact that someone in America wrote down what freedoms people have by nature? I doubt it.

BLAIR: “Once you have done that then you can begin to assert that there can be no morality without belief in a God. Once you assert it – you’ll have to prove it. You will have to prove that atheistic religions (such as Buddhism) are immoral. Or you will have to prove that atheistic beliefs derive their morality from God.”

As I said, our sense of right and wrong does not come from inspired law (Bible, Koran, Torah, etc), but is what English legal historian Blackstone called Natural Law: The sense of right and wrong that every human is born with. Therefore, even without a belief in God, all people have, to some degree, a sense of what is right, and what isn’t.

Thanks for the interesting discussion.

Response to Adam #002:

ADAM: “So our morality is just a social convention?”

Yes and no. The major influence is societal but there are other influences directly and indirectly. The human animal is a social animal. If the social drive were to disappear overnight things would change drastically. The need for morality goes away when the influence of society and the drive to be social disappears. The need for cooperative living goes away. The need for self-preservation increases and the desire to preserve self over all others becomes a primary mission.

There is still self-preservation within a society but they are focused differently. If human beings were not social animals the self-preservation factor would increase drastically. That is to say that flight or fight become more important. Another human being in your territory becomes a threat and should be eliminated. Human beings would only gather to copulate and reproduce. We would be purely animalistic.

It is the fact that we are social animals that requires morality to form. As social animals can we run around killing everyone that walk through our grass? As social animals can we run around stealing everything we want? No – because a society cannot last under those conditions (if it’s a society at all under those conditions in the first place).

The question then becomes what guidelines were used by those first societies to establish the rules and guidelines that evolved into a complex moral structure? There are several factors that play into the formation of the rules and guidelines.

But why are we social animals? What drove the solitary hunter/gatherer to associate with others of his kind and form the first mini-societies? We’ve all heard the phrase, “There is safety in numbers”, and we take it for granted. But there really is safety in numbers. More food could be gathered, larger prey could be hunted, more females could tend the young, and more males could protect the group.

But at the formation of the group guidelines and rules had to be established and a leader had to be picked. Obviously there is no way to know exactly what procedures were used to choose a leader back then. But by looking at primitive cultures today we have a basic idea of what could have happened. Once that leader is chosen and the guidelines and rules are set up your have accomplished two things. You have created the foundation for a moral structure and a moral “law enforcement”.

The guidelines were based on personal experience, group experience, knowledge of the known world, etc. In other words if someone steals something from you how does it make you feel? Do you feel bad because you know its wrong or do you feel bad because someone took your stuff? Because you feel bad you associate that act with being bad and create a rule against it. The first societies established their rules and guidelines based on their personal experiences. They established new rules and guidelines as situations developed that required the intervention of the leader. The leader would make a choice and that choice would become a new guideline.

What it boils down to is that our personal experience with things done against us helps us to establish what is wrong or right. When someone does something to us and it makes us feel bad then we know what that someone did was wrong. We know what we did is wrong by instinct and feeling – not because someone tells us its wrong. If morality were nothing more than a code of laws dictated down by a Supreme Being then there would be no emotion attached to things done against us. We would know something is wrong because we were told it was wrong – not because we felt that it was wrong.

Our leaders, regardless of how they are chosen, create the guidelines and rules we live by based on those experiences and other factors. Even to this day our representatives in government make guidelines and rules based on their experiences. Laws and morality are created by our feelings about actions against others and us. For example we, as an animal species, want to protect our species and specifically, our young. We know how it makes us feel when our young are threatened. We know what a mother’s and father’s protective instincts feel like. These feelings toward our young are reflected in our social morality and the laws we create based on that morality.

ADAM: “What is it based on – what’s best for society? I would think not. After all, is it not ‘better’ for society, in the evolutionary sense, if only the strongest and smartest people survive? That would make it morally right to kill our parents, people with disabilities – anyone who is weaker than we are.”

I would disagree with your assessment of those that are weaker. If everyone in the society were extremely intelligent and strong – who would perform the menial labor? A friend of mine said it best the other day (even if it is mildly insulting), “We need stupid people in the world… someone has to pick up our garbage and clean our public bathrooms.” While his remarks were insensitive he effectively summed up the societal view of the weaker.

Another point you missed is that we know how it feels when someone close to us is killed or dies. It is our feelings that create the morality for society that killing is wrong. There are people out there that would gladly kill the weak. There have been many examples throughout history. But that only goes to show that our personal feelings can and do dictate our morality. A bunch of people that felt the same way rallied behind a leader that represented their moral views.

ADAM: “Also, if morality is just a convention of whatever society we belong to, it would be morally correct for me to join an Amazon tribe that has no qualms about killing any outsiders that come into their territory. Would that not be morally right?”

Good luck joining said tribe – they will probably kill you before you can join. What you have to realize is that a tribe such as your example kills not because their morality dictates a higher need for tribal self-preservation and protection. They would need to eliminate threats. In their societal view killing you would be morally right because the protection of the tribe is more important than your life. Would that make it morally right for other people? That depends entirely on their societal needs and influences as well as their personal feelings of the issue.

ADAM: “This law I am speaking of may be called the Law of Human Nature: A ‘voice’ in their mind that tells them to be unselfish. A little voice that tells us we ought to do something or ought not to do something. We often don’t like what the voice tells us, after all, to follow it we would have to be unselfish.”

Essentially you are referring to the same thing I am – you are just calling it something different and associating it with a Supreme Being instead of the influences of society. That “voice” you are referring to is our conscience. Our conscience is learned and is not something we are born instinctually with. A baby does not know that killing someone is wrong – that is something they will be taught and learn in their lifetime experiences.

Is it safe to assume that you are not going to compile a list or moral issues from the Bible?

ADAM: “Instincts are very hard, if impossible, to suppress. But conscience can be suppressed and ignored. Nor is it an evolutionary instinct or urge. After all, sometimes what our conscience tells us to do puts our own safety on the line. (For example, helping people who are in danger)”

Your conscience is an instinct – a learned instinct. The conscience of one human being is different from another. If it were, as you claim, something you are born with – then everyone would have exactly the same conscience. And that is not so – each of us has a different conscience based on what we have experienced, what we have been taught, and the moral guidelines and rules of our society. Some members of the established society and morality go against the grain and choose not to conform. Some societies have different views of conscience. That is evident in the difference of laws around the world.

ADAM: “I am not (yet) tying conscience or our moral sense to the Christian and Hebrew God. I am simply saying that the conscience cannot be just a social convention, or some evolutionary mechanism.”

I am not saying it is just a social convention. I am saying that it is the societal influence that dictates how we translate our emotions, feelings, and conscience into guidelines and rules that ultimately become established morality within said society.

ADAM: “Unselfishness is exactly the opposite of what evolutionary instinct would be – the preservation of one’s self.”

Why do you assume that unselfishness is the opposite of evolutionary instinct? When residing in groups and societies we have to look out for each other. That was the whole point of forming groups in the first place (safety in numbers). In a society we look out for each other – we protect each other. If unselfishness were not an issue then we would not have formed societal groups and cohabitated. It is our evolutionary instincts to preserve our species and that instinct translates directly to our emotions and feeling regarding death and sickness, which in turn translates into established morality.

ADAM: “Some sense of right and wrong is found in all cultures and societies. The extent to which they adhere to the code differs, but all have it.”

Exactly.

ADAM: “In no culture is selfishness admired very much. The extent of acceptable selfishness varies from culture to culture. In some on must only be unselfish to one’s family.”

That is because there is no culture that has not grouped into societies. Self-preservation requires unselfishness to protect the species and the society.

ADAM: “The only reason anyone can be held to a moral law is that it is imposed by someone higher than humans. If our morals are dictated simply by our society, then no society’s moral code is any more right or wrong than ours.”

When you say someone “higher than humans” I’m assuming you are referring to God or some Supreme Being. So again I ask you to supply a list of morality defined in the Bible. Then show me how that morality is enforced and imposed on the human race by said Supreme Being.

ADAM: “Thus, Nazi Germany would have been in the right when they killed thousands of Jews and tried to enforce their governments on other societies. After all, they were following their own moral code. So why did people fight the Nazis?”

In the Nazi view they were right. The Nazi societal morality at the time allowed for the murder of anyone that did not fit the Nazi societal criteria. They established a criterion for recognition in their society. Anyone that did not fit said criterions were murdered.

People fought the Nazis because their societal moral views were different. People also fought the Nazis for self-preservation. We group in societies for self-preservation, which includes defending ourselves against intruders. The rally against Japan was not because they were Japanese (that came later) but because they had invaded our land. They infringed upon our sovereignty and our national pride. As Yomamoto said, “…we have awoken a sleeping giant.”

ADAM: “The fact that someone in America wrote down what freedoms people have by nature? I doubt it.”

You are basing this statement that only Americans were engaged in the fighting. There were many brave men and women that were fighting to get their homes back and protect their families and society from the Nazi regime. America fought back for several reasons. First and foremost they fought the Japanese because of the attack on Pearl Harbor. They fought the Nazis for a couple of reasons. First was that once Nazi Germany began attacking great Britain the next stop was Canada and America. The Canadians knew the threat as much as we did and were also in Europe stopping the Nazis. We also fought the Nazis because our societal morality knew that the actions of the Nazi regime were wrong.

ADAM: “Therefore, even without a belief in God, all people have, to some degree, a sense of what is right, and what isn’t.”

Thanks for agreeing with me.

Adam Rebuttal #003:

I’m not sure if you understood exactly what you’re saying, so I will briefly outline what the consequences of your thought pattern are:

1. Mores are the result of the needs of societies and cultures.

1.a. Laws and morality are created by our feelings about actions against others and us.

1.b. Our leaders, regardless of how they are chosen, create the guidelines and rules we live by based on those experiences and other factors.

2. Societies and cultures have different mores.

2.a. The Nazis had a different morality from us.

3. Morality is not absolute.

4. Society controls the definition of morality.

4.a. Laws and morality are created by our feelings about actions against others and us.

4.b. Our leaders, regardless of how they are chosen, create the guidelines and rules we live by based on those experiences and other factors.

5. Society is controlled by its members.

5.a. Our leaders, regardless of how they are chosen…

6. Society’s members control the definition of morality.

7. Society’s members want the best for themselves.

8. Society’s members control the definition of morality. (6)

9. Society’s morality is whatever society’s members want.

10. Morality is open to definition

10.a. Society’s morality is whatever society’s members want. (9)

11. Morality is the definition of right and wrong.

12. Right and wrong are not absolute.

Thus, since right and wrong are not absolute, you cannot say that some action is wrong. All you would be saying it happens to be inconvenient for our society, or in disagreement with how the majority felt.

Suppose I were to bludgeon you with a baseball bat (don’t worry, I’m not about to). What would be wrong about that?

Let’s look at some of the reasons it might be wrong:

It hurt or killed you? And what about it? Who says hurting or killing is wrong? Society. And who says that society is right? The people who make up society. So society says that society is right?

It hurt society by killing a member? And what about it? Who says it’s wrong to hurt society? Society? And who says that society is right? Society’s members. Once again, society is justifying itself.

It hurt society by giving other members a bad example: As I said earlier, there seems to be nothing more wrong about murder than about stealing a stalk of celery from the grocery store. Both hurt society. But once more, what’s wrong about hurting society? “If society breaks apart survival will be much harder”. And what about it? Who says there’s anything wrong with that? After all, you say there isn’t a god or Gods. Thus there is no purpose for humans, so there would be nothing morally bad about society collapsing and humans becoming extinct. In fact, it would free up a lot of resources for the rest of the animal kingdom.

Another point: If there is no absolute moral right and wrong then society’s moral values never improve, they just change. Take slavery, for example. Apart from our self-evident freedoms (bestowed by God) there is no moral anything that says that slavery might be wrong. After all, it sure benefited southern society and economy. So where is the moral improvement in today’s society over a 19th century society when slavery was the norm? And where is the improvement in giving women equal rights? There is no moral improvement if morality is nothing more than what society’s needs and wants are at any one moment. What, I ask, is the justification for saying that we all are guaranteed equal rights and freedoms? That people like having equal rights because they know how it is not to be treated ‘fairly’? I would reply, “Apart from an absolute right and wrong, what meaning do ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’ have? None, because society dictates what is right and wrong, and thus dictates what our rights and freedoms are. So when society changes, so do our rights and freedoms.”

Response to Adam #003:

ADAM: “1. Morals are the result of the needs of societies and cultures.

1.a. Laws and morality are created by our feelings about actions against others and us.

1.b. Our leaders, regardless of how they are chosen, create the guidelines and rules we live by based on those experiences and other factors.”

1. Yes.

1a. Yes. If we feel bad when someone steals from us or a loved on dies then we know that stealing and killing are bad.

1b. Yes and no. Obviously there is the ability for corruption and abuse of power to dictate self-want over societal needs (such as Hitler – but his society followed him willingly, though). Throughout history often there was what was called “The Divine Right of Rule or Law”. What this meant was that the ruler had authority to dictate morality because he had been given “divine authority”. This obviously came about after religion was invented. There is no denying that leaders use their religious beliefs to dictate morality – but that in no way signifies that morality requires religion. It signifies that religion is another form of morality.

ADAM: “2. Societies and cultures have different morals.

2.a. The Nazis had a different morality from us.”

2. Yes. Even to this day there are different morals around the world. As a seasoned world traveler I can aver for the different moralities throughout countries and societies.

2a. Yes. They believed that it was okay to kill others to preserve their own heritage, which they considered to be a “super-race”. That type of morality continues today in sub-societies such as the Christian Identity, KKK, Aryan Youth, etc.

ADAM: “3. Morality is not absolute.”

3. Correct. Morality constantly changes based on the changing views of society. Abortion is a good example of changing morality. Pre-marital sex is also a good example of changing morality.

ADAM: “4. Society controls the definition of morality.

4.a. Laws and morality are created by our feelings about actions against others and us.

4.b. Our leaders, regardless of how they are chosen, create the guidelines and rules we live by based on those experiences and other factors.”

4. Yes.

4a. Yes, as stated before.

4b. Yes and no, as stated before.

ADAM: “5. Society is controlled by its members.

5.a. Our leaders, regardless of how they are chosen…”

5. In most cases. There are obvious exceptions. Religion is an exception where morality is dictated rather than chosen. However there are different moral views even among Christians – regardless of dictation. That is because the sub-societies of Christianity have chosen their own morality even in light of their dictated morality in scripture.

5a. Yes and no, as stated before.

ADAM: “6. Society’s members control the definition of morality.”

Yes – today this is more noticeable through popular vote and representation. Unfortunately, our political system allows for corruption and self based morality to interfere with that process. That is unavoidable when a society grows too large. Imagine how much of a problem we’ll have when a world union is created. Every country trying to enforce their own view of morality, laws, and rules. Every religion offering their own version of morality, etc. I don’t think any leader is looking forward to that day.

ADAM: “7. Society’s members want the best for themselves.”

Yes and no. We want the best for ourselves because we know how it feels when things are done or are not done to or for us. That experience allows us to empathize with the other members of our society and species. We use our personal experiences to control our actions. Self-preservation plays a key role, though.

Many misconstrue this as; “If that’s the case then everyone would be killing everyone else in order to preserve him or herself.” However, nothing could be further from the truth. If I went around killing everyone I would start to make enemies of my victims’ loved ones. I would then become a hunted man and the self-preservation factor would become null and void. Making alliances and grouping together better serve self-preservation. As an individual, I have a better chance of survival if I group. As a group we can gather more food, build structures faster, and protect ourselves more efficiently.

For example, let’s say that John has a lake on his land but his acreage is not very fertile. Mike has tons of fertile land but no access to water. Should John and Mike try to kill each other and capture the other’s bounty? What guarantee does each have that they will escape the conflict unscathed? How can you enjoy the fruits of war if you are injured? If Mike were to capture the water – how can he do all the work himself? It is better for Mike and John to form an alliance and share the work and the bounty from that work. With both of them working together they increase the self-preservation chances.

ADAM: “8. Society’s members control the definition of morality.”

8. Yes.

ADAM: “9. Society’s morality is whatever society’s member’s want.”

Yes and no. The members of a society decide what is best for that society based on the aforementioned criterion. There are obviously dissenters. If everyone in our society agreed with the common rule of not murdering then there would never be a murder. Societies members decided that murder was not beneficial to the overall society. But there are a few out there that disagree with this assertion and dissent… and murder.

ADAM: “10. Morality is open to definition

10.a. Society’s morality is whatever society’s member’s want.”

10. Yes. Just look around at the differences in religious sects and their interpretations of dictated morality. Just look around at the different laws and guidelines as you cross country borders and even state borders. In Tennessee it is illegal to have sex in any position other than missionary style – yet in the surrounding states it is legal to have sex in any position you want. Except in South Carolina where it’s illegal to have anal sex. And obviously there are many other examples.

ADAM: “11. Morality is the definition of right and wrong.”

11. For the particular society that has adapted a certain morality – yes. Morality may be what we “consider” to be right and wrong – but that does not define an absolute. The Nazis are a good example. They considered themselves to be right by their defined morality. Yet others considered what they were doing to be wrong. Right and wrong are only perceptions based on the society that has implemented said morality. Take that morality somewhere else and it has a pretty good chance of not being so black and white.

For example, our society feels that polygamy is not moral. There is an estimated 10,000 polygamists in the United States (1996 figures – couldn’t find anything newer). Those 10,000 feel that the societal moral demand of no polygamy is wrong and counter it. However – if they were to travel to countries in the Middle East or South America they would find an open-arm welcome from a societal moral demand that polygamy is “right”.

ADAM: “12. Right and wrong are not absolute.”

12. Right and wrong are defined by each society. The morality of that society is right and wrong only for that society. That is why right in America does not mean right in Saudi Arabia. Wrong in Australia does not mean wrong in Venezuela.

ADAM: “Suppose I were to bludgeon you with a baseball bat (don’t worry, I’m not about to). What would be wrong about that?”

In the American society that would be considered morally wrong. In other societies it might be considered okay. If you had bludgeoned me with a baseball bat in 1941 in the middle of Berlin it would have been okay.

ADAM: “Who says hurting or killing is wrong? Society. And who says that society is right? The people who make up society. So society says that society is right?”

The majority of people that make up a society adhere to the morality that is established by that same society. But, as I stated earlier, not everyone jumps on the morality bandwagon of society. That is why we have rape, murder, drunk driving, molestation, child pornography, etc. Because there are dissenters from the morality established by the society.

Is there a religious morality from the Bible against rape? Drunk driving? Child pornography? Is there a religious morality from the Bible against having sex in any way other than missionary style?

ADAM: “It hurt society by killing a member? And what about it? Who says it’s wrong to hurt society? Society? And who says that society is right? Society’s members. Once again, society is justifying itself.”

Of course societies justify themselves, their morality, and their actions. America had to justify its actions and morality on a daily basis during the Kosovo Conflict. America, as a society, justified its own actions. Societies do this every day – so why do you have such a hard time with that concept?

ADAM: “Both hurt society. But once more, what’s wrong about hurting society?”

If you hurt a society then you break apart the very foundation of self-preservation. If a society crumbles then it becomes “every man for himself”. We say this happen during the Los Angeles riots. There was no sense of morality at all during that time. The sub-society had crumbled and chaos broke out. It was imperative to the overall society to gain control and reestablish morality to the sub-society before is spread like a cancer.

If you hurt a society then you degrade your overall chances of self-preservation. As I discussed earlier, you have a better chance of self-preservation through alliances – not through individual endeavors and killing sprees. Societies must take care of those that go against the societal morality – thus laws were born.

ADAM: “”If society breaks apart survival will be much harder”. And what about it? Who says there’s anything wrong with that? After all, you say there isn’t a god or Gods. Thus there is no purpose for humans, so there would be nothing morally bad about society collapsing and humans becoming extinct. In fact, it would free up a lot of resources for the rest of the animal kingdom.”

That is also counterproductive to self-preservation. We, as humans, are an animal species. We have a drive to stay alive. Why do people make every effort to save themselves in a crisis situation? If there is a God and you believe in that God then why fight to survive? Just give up, die, and meet your maker. But evolutionary instincts kick in. Adrenaline flows, and we look for every possible way out of a crisis situation. We want to survive. Your statement is purely emotional.

ADAM: “Another point: If there is no absolute moral right and wrong then society’s moral values never improve, they just change.”

For the society that has defined that morality – it is an improvement. For another society it might not be an improvement.

ADAM: “Take slavery, for example. Apart from our self-evident freedoms (bestowed by God) there is no moral anything that says that slavery might be wrong.”

First of all, where in the Constitution does it say, “Bestowed by God”? There is moral basis in the Constitution that slavery is wrong. “That all men are created equal” is pretty good moral basis for abolishment of slavery. It was that very line that led Abraham Lincoln and others to lead the crusade to abolish slavery.

ADAM: “After all, it [slavery] sure benefited southern society and economy. So where is the moral improvement in today’s society over a 19th century society when slavery was the norm?”

It also benefited the Israelites in the Old Testament. The Bible says slavery is okay – so why don’t Christians and Jews own slaves? Because they have stepped beyond the dictated morality of their Bible and accepted the societal morality that no one should be a slave. However, there are still societies in the world today that own and sell slaves.

If you can’t see the moral improvement then perhaps you should evaluate yourself instead of evaluating the societal morality.

ADAM: “And where is the improvement in giving women equal rights? There is no moral improvement if morality is nothing more than what society’s needs and wants are at any one moment.”

You don’t see the moral improvement by giving women equal rights? Of course you don’t – the Bible says women don’t have equal rights. There are a lot of women that sure are happier that the dictated morality of the Bible does not “rule the land”.

ADAM: “What, I ask, is the justification for saying that we all are guaranteed equal rights and freedoms?”

If each of us has equality and freedom then we have a greater chance of serving the society.

ADAM: “I would reply, “Apart from an absolute right and wrong, what meaning do ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’ have? None, because society dictates what is right and wrong, and thus dictates what our rights and freedoms are. So when society changes, so do our rights and freedoms.””

Correct – as society changes, so do our rights and freedoms. Society changed its view on the use of drugs and you no longer have the freedom to do drugs. Sure – you can do them. But then you face the consequences of the societal morality and the laws created thereof.

Adam Rebuttal #004:

BLAIR: “1a. Yes. If we feel bad when someone steals from us or a loved one dies then we know that stealing and killing are bad.”

Incorrect. All we know is that we feel bad about it.

How do you connect the feeling that something is bad with the statement that it is morally bad without involving an absolute reference? Let me explain. You are relying on your emotions to tell you what is right and wrong. The only reason anyone would use their emotions as a reference for moral decisions is that they believe that their emotions have a more objective view of right and wrong than their reasoning. In other words, they trust their emotions more than their reasoning and admit that their emotions are not fully controlled by the conscious mind. You might point out that emotions are simply a product of subconscious reasoning based on past experience and biological sensations. However the fact is you’re saying that your feelings about issues are ‘better’ or more morally correct than your conscious reasoning. And the only way you can say they’re better is to compare them against some absolute reference.

BLAIR: “Morality constantly changes based on the changing views of society. Abortion is a good example of changing morality. Pre-marital sex is also a good example of changing morality.”

In that case it is not morality: It is an opinion.

BLAIR: “Yes – today this is more noticeable through popular vote and representation. Unfortunately, our political system allows for corruption and self based morality to interfere with that process. That is unavoidable when a society grows too large.”

Hold on a moment . . .

“our political system allows for corruption”: All you are saying is that through popular vote we create systems that can be used in a way contrary to what we want. I guess then that the only reason for that corruption is that we are sloppy when we create laws.

“self-based morality”: Isn’t, according to you, all morality self-based? If the only reason we feel that anything is morally bad is that it hurts our self-preservation efforts and makes us feel bad then all morality is our opinion of what is good and bad for us personally.

BLAIR: “Imagine how much of a problem we’ll have when a world union is created. Every country trying to enforce their own view of morality, laws, and rules. Every religion offering their own version of morality, etc. I don’t think any leader is looking forward to that day.”

Interesting point. In that case we will have to submit to whatever morality is held by whoever has the majority. That might well be China or some other country with completely different morals than we have. Suddenly free speech will be morally wrong and we will have nothing to appeal to.

BLAIR: “Yes and no. We want the best for ourselves because we know how it feels when things are done or are not done to or for us. That experience allows us to empathize with the other members of our society and species. We use our personal experiences to control our actions. Self-preservation plays a key role, though.”

Many misconstrue this as; “If that’s the case then everyone would be killing everyone else in order to preserve him or herself.” However, nothing could be further from the truth. If I went around killing everyone I would start to make enemies of my victims’ loved ones. I would then become a hunted man and the self-preservation factor would become null and void. Making alliances and grouping together better serve self-preservation. As an individual, I have a better chance of survival if I group. As a group we can gather more food, build structures faster, and protect ourselves more efficiently.

For example, let’s say that John has a lake on his land but his acreage is not very fertile. Mike has tons of fertile land but no access to water. Should John and Mike try to kill each other and capture the other’s bounty? What guarantee does each have that they will escape the conflict unscathed? How can you enjoy the fruits of war if you are injured? If Mike were to capture the water – how can he do all the work himself? It is better for Mike and John to form an alliance and share the work and the bounty from that work. With both of them working together they increase the self-preservation chances.

BLAIR: “12. Right and wrong are defined by each society. The morality of that society is right and wrong only for that society. That is why right in America does not mean right in Saudi Arabia. Wrong in Australia does not mean wrong in Venezuela. The majority of people that make up a society adhere to the morality that is established by that same society. But, as I stated earlier, not everyone jumps on the morality bandwagon of society. That is why we have rape, murder, drunk driving, molestation, child pornography, etc. Because there are dissenters from the morality established by the society.”

As I said: Society justifies society’s views. The majority’s opinion is the justification for the validity of the majority’s opinion.

BLAIR: “Of course societies justify themselves, their morality, and their actions. America had to justify its actions and morality on a daily basis during the Kosovo Conflict. America, as a society, justified its own actions. Societies do this every day – so why do you have such a hard time with that concept?”

You are saying that the opinion of the majority is correct because they say that it is correct. That is not valid reasoning. I would be committing the same fallacy were I to say that the Bible is accurate because it says it is accurate.

BLAIR: “If you hurt a society then you degrade your overall chances of self-preservation. As I discussed earlier, you have a better chance of self-preservation through alliances – not through individual endeavors and killing sprees. Societies must take care of those that go against the societal morality – thus laws were born.”

You are saying that hurting society is wrong because it goes against our instinct for self-preservation. In other words hurting society is simply going against instinct, like skipping a meal when you’re hungry. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with that.

BLAIR: “That is also counterproductive to self-preservation. We, as humans, are an animal species. We have a drive to stay alive. Why do people make every effort to save themselves in a crisis situation? If there is a God and you believe in that God then why fight to survive? Just give up, die, and meet your maker. But evolutionary instincts kick in. Adrenaline flows, and we look for every possible way out of a crisis situation. We want to survive. Your statement is purely emotional.”

As I said, your morality basically comes down to evolutionary instinct.

BLAIR: “For the society that has defined that morality – it is an improvement. For another society it might not be an improvement.”

To say that any morality is an improvement is to compare it to the previous morality. To compare two moralities you need an absolute reference by which to compare them. Otherwise you are simply saying that one makes you feel better than the other, or makes more sense economically.

BLAIR: “First of all, where in the Constitution does it say, “Bestowed by God”? There is moral basis in the Constitution that slavery is wrong. “That all men are created equal” is pretty good moral basis for abolishment of slavery. It was that very line that led Abraham Lincoln and others to lead the crusade to abolish slavery.”

After all, it [slavery] sure benefited southern society and economy. So where is the moral improvement in today’s society over a 19th century society when slavery was the norm?

BLAIR: “It also benefited the Israelites in the Old Testament. The Bible says slavery is okay – so why don’t Christians and Jews own slaves? Because they have stepped beyond the dictated morality of their Bible and accepted the societal morality that no one should be a slave. However, there are still societies in the world today that own and sell slaves.”

You are changing the subject. I asked where you see any moral improvement in today’s society over society that condoned slavery. My point is that without an absolute moral reference, it is impossible to say that any society’s moral views get better or worse. You must stick with the statement that the current society’s moral views suit your subjective opinion of what is right and wrong more or less than its former moral views.

BLAIR: “If you can’t see the moral improvement then perhaps you should evaluate yourself instead of evaluating the societal morality.”

It doesn’t matter what my views are about this. I asked you where you see the moral improvement in today’s society over a 19th century society when slavery was the norm?

BLAIR: “You don’t see the moral improvement by giving women equal rights? Of course you don’t – the Bible says women don’t have equal rights. There are a lot of women that sure are happier that the dictated morality of the Bible does not “rule the land”.”

I was not making a statement about my views on the subject. I was asking you, “where is the moral improvement in giving women equal rights?” Please answer my question.

BLAIR: “If each of us has equality and freedom then we have a greater chance of serving the society.”

How about communist countries? Their population had an even easier time serving the society.

Here’s my main point: If I have two one-yard measuring sticks of different lengths I cannot be sure which one is really one yard long without comparing both against something of a known length, like an accurate measuring tape. In the same way, for any morality to be judged better than another morality there has to be something objective and absolute to judge them against. A person’s feelings are rarely absolute or objective. And the sum of a million people’s feelings is just as subjective and volatile.

Response to Adam #004:

ADAM: “Incorrect. All we know is that we feel bad about it.”

How do we know that what we feel is “bad”? What we know is that what we feel just doesn’t “feel right” in the sense that it makes us angry, upset, or sad. It is only the introduction of vocabulary that attributes “bad” to this feeling. Early man knew not of bad or good – only what made him feel different. I think throughout your rebuttal you are stuck on modernistic definitions and semantics and not looking at the big picture. You are stuck on morality being an absolute reference and “bad” vs. “good” as a modern perspective.

I think your view and the difficulties you are having are based on your theological morality and your views thereof. That is not to say that your views are wrong – only that they are preventing you from seeing the grand scheme of things here. Your later confusion with progressive morality with opinions further illustrates this. How does the theist know what is “good”? Does he know it is good because God knows it is good or because God commands it?

The Greek philosopher Plate discussed the dilemma in his dialogue Euthyphro. The character Socrates meets the character Euthyphro who is on his way to court to prosecute his own father for the murder of a laborer. In ancient Greece loyalty to one’s family was a matter of great theological importance. Socrates asks Euthyphro whether or not he is certain that the gods will be offended by his actions against his father – whether or not it is immoral. Euthyphro assures Socrates that he is an expert in the wishes of the gods and Euthyphro begins to defend the divine command theory of ethics. Euthyphro states that we know what is good only because the gods tell us what is good. So the dilemma then becomes, does God command what is good because god recognizes what is good or is it good because god commands it to be good?

It is good because God commands it to be good. By that standard anything can be good if god commands it. For example the slaughter of Egypt’s firstborn in Exodus is considered to be good because God commanded it. But is the slaughter of every firstborn in a nation really a good thing? We often hear theists defend the actions of their god as “it is god’s will” or “the lord works in mysterious ways” or “we cannot know what good god meant from this but since god is pure good we know that it was a good act.” All I can say to that kind of rationalization is, “Hogwash!”

Christianity insists that their standards of ethics are above non-Christians morals because their God commands their morals (Ten Commandments, Laws, etc.). There are instances in the Bible where the Christian God commanded acts that are automatically good because God commanded them. Yet by my own conscience and the way I feel when I see such atrocities or read about them I know that it doesn’t sit right or “feel right” with me. My modernistic vocabulary allows me to attribute the word “bad” to these acts. Acts like dashing babies heads, stoning people to death, murdering the entire world’s population, etc. Are these acts moral simply because they are the word of God?

By God’s commandment the Ten Commandments could be anything he wanted and the Christian would be forced to follow them as “good”. Fundamentalist Muslims throw themselves to death in suicide bombings all the time declaring it as the “will of Allah” and therefore, by their theistic standards, it is good. Yet we consider such atrocities to be bad.

God commands what is good because god recognizes what is good. This of course leads us to the conclusion that if God recognizes what is good then there is a standard of good other than God. Therefore religion and god are not required to know what is good. If there is a standard of good outside of God that God recognizes when passing commands for doing good – then God becomes obsolete. In other words, if God knows what is good and then tells us what to do on the grounds of what he knows to be good then god is not the source of morality since the command was given by what was observed or recognized by god and not what was made by god. God simply becomes an investigative reporter for the Good Times magazine.

Either way – there is no foundation for the theistic assertion that theistic morality is on a higher level or that non-theistic morality is non-existent.

So we come back to figuring out where morality came from in the first place since obviously God cannot be the source or we have no way of knowing whether or not what god has commanded is actually good or just a commandment in the guise of good. There are numerous theories of ethics from Kant to Mill’s utilitarian ethics to a virtue-based (aretaic) ethical system.

Kant states that the foundation of ethics and morality is the “good will” of man. In short, it is not what we do that makes us morally good or bad but what we intend to do and what we attempt to accomplish. These actions are a direct reflection upon us by the society that evaluates our actions.

Mill defines his utilitarian system by saying,

MILL: “The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals “utility” or the “greatest happiness principle” holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.”

In other words we choose our actions based on what will bring us the most happiness and self-preservation. We decide what is wrong or right based on how we feel. And these feelings are reflected in the grand scale when individuals accumulate to form mini-societies and ultimately major-societies. There has to be an agreement of what is wrong and right based on those feelings.

Around 300 BC, during the time of Aristotle and the ancient Greeks, the virtue-based system of ethics, or aretaic ethics, were born. Aretaic ethics imply that the central issue of morality is not what actions are best but what type of character and what type of life is best. It addresses the motivational and communal dimensions of ethical conduct. Many people are confused by what is meant by “character”. In our modernistic view character is a personal issue. But as Edith Hamilton states in her book The Greek Way we learn what “character” meant to the Greeks in ancient Greece,

HAMILTON: “To us a man’s character is peculiarly his own; it distinguishes each one from the rest. To the Greeks it was a man’s share in qualities all men partake of; it united each one to the rest. We are interested in people’s special characters, the things in this or that person that are different from the general. The Greeks, on the contrary, thought what was important in a man were precisely the qualities he shared with all mankind.”

In other words the Greeks viewed each individual as a part of a whole community. Aristotle explained it as a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean. The state of character is instilled by habit. Society worked to instill the habit of responding with appropriate action (moral choice) to situations. The appropriateness of the action is extremely important. A good example is that while it is an appropriate action to give a little money to the poor it is not an appropriate action to give all of your money to the poor so that you become poor yourself (an action acclaimed and insisted upon by Jesus in the Bible).

Now obviously there is no way to establish a listing of actions for every situation. So what are the virtues that establish themselves in an aretaic ethics system? In the book Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Humanism, Paul Kurtz lists some of these virtues, what he calls the common moral decencies. The include integrity, truthfulness, fidelity, dependability, benevolence, good will, refraining from harming others, respecting other’s property, sexual consent, beneficence, fairness, gratitude, accountability, justice, tolerance, and cooperation.

That being said, let’s take a closer look at some of your arguments.

ADAM: “How do you connect the feeling that something is bad with the statement that it is morally bad without involving an absolute reference? … You are relying on your emotions to tell you what is right and wrong. The only reason anyone would use their emotions as a reference for moral decisions is that they believe that their emotions have a more objective view of right and wrong than their reasoning.”

There is no absolute reference. If there were an absolute reference then every society in the world would have the same morality. Why do you feel it necessary that there be an absolute reference when basing one’s morality on their feelings and/or emotions (they are different)? When I say something makes you “feel bad” I am using a modern vocabulary to explain that feeling. If you take away your knowledge of vocabulary then experience those feelings and emotions – how do you think you will react. That “doesn’t feel right” feeling that we get when something is done against us (vice for us) lets us know that what was done wasn’t “kosher”, if you will. It identifies that action as undesirable. We learn from that experience and the feelings and emotions associated with that experience that the actions against us did not make us happy and therefore cannot be “good”.

ADAM: “In other words, they trust their emotions more than their reasoning and admit that their emotions are not fully controlled by the conscious mind.”

There is still the ability to reason. The emotional and feeling response only established the foundation of morality. Once we use our reasoning then we begin to understand why we had those feelings and emotions. We begin to understand exactly why those actions are “bad”. We can then establish laws and guidelines using our reasoning skills. Today’s penal codes and laws are attributed more to our reasoning – but the groundwork for that reasoning and creation of laws and codes was laid down by our emotions and feelings on the actions committed against us.

ADAM: “However the fact is you’re saying that your feelings about issues are ‘better’ or more morally correct than your conscious reasoning. And the only way you can say they’re better is to compare them against some absolute reference.”

I’m not saying our feelings are better. What I am saying is that our feelings and emotions established the groundwork for morality. Our reasoning skills fine tuned that basic morality and adapted societal needs into them. It is for this very reason that there are so many different moral values worldwide. Each society has a unique morality – because there is no absolute reference. If you think about it there would probably be a more even keel of morality worldwide if reasoning were not an issue. If all moral systems were based on our instincts, our feelings, and emotions – then there would more than likely not result in such a fight when the world’s governments come together to discuss adaptive morality in the New World Order.

ADAM: “In that case it is not morality: It is an opinion.”

On the contrary – why do people have an opinion? Are you pro-life or pro-choice? And why do you feel that way? After you ask somebody his or her opinion we have a tendency to ask, “Why do you FEEL that way?” We ask that because opinions are based on feelings, emotions, and reasoning. The very things we establish morality upon. Not to initiate a pro-life debate here – but the abortion issue is a good example. The earliest emotional morality identified all death as “bad”. Then our reasoning skills took over and justified some deaths (war, euthanasia, self-defense, first-term abortions, etc) as not necessarily good – but at a minimum, justified. The reasoning skills override the emotional instincts on abortion. Abortion was legalized and the issue continues to this day. Recently the turn has been back to the emotionalism of the issue. Reasoning has left and emotionalism has returned.

There are two sides of the emotionalism – the far right and the far left. The total pro-lifers and the total pro-choice people rely on emotionalism (which is why they fight so much). Those whom remain insistent on reasoning skills and discussion the issue logically are stuck somewhere in the middle under a barrage of crossfire from the extremists. The entire abortion issue has become rather pathetic – but it still remains a good example of changing morality as the views of society change.

ADAM: “Hold on a moment… “Our political system allows for corruption”? All you are saying is that through popular vote we create systems that can be used in a way contrary to what we want. I guess then that the only reason for that corruption is that we are sloppy when we create laws.”

No – we entrust too much authority to those above us. This is particularly noticeable in this day and age. Back in the good old days of feudal systems this corruption was called Divine Right of Rule/Law. The King was allowed to rule because he had been given Divine Right by God (any god will do – doesn’t matter which one). The Emperor of Rome had Divine Right by God. This caused corruption because the dictator (let’s call them what they were) was able to force his personal morality upon others instead of using the collective morality of the society to establish laws. If the society felt that abortion was bad but the leader felt that is was okay – what law do you think would have been passed?

That does not mean that every case of a leader overriding the people is corruption. In many cases the emotionalism of the general populous can be dangerous and the reasoning skills of someone outside the issue has a better chance of solving the issue and looking at it objectively.

ADAM: “In that case we will have to submit to whatever morality is held by whoever has the majority. That might well be China or some other country with completely different morals than we have. Suddenly free speech will be morally wrong and we will have nothing to appeal to.”

Unlikely. During such a situation I doubt a majority rule will apply in that sense. If true endeavors are made for a world government then there has to be a consensus among the world’s population – and not government aficionados. A worldwide census would have to be performed to get the “opinion” (based on feelings, emotions, and reasoning) of every single human being on this planet. But even then out problem is not solved. This is why I do not envision a world government ever forming (which is why The Revelation is a story and not a prophecy). The morality issue could never be solved. There is too much societal diversity in the morality game.

ADAM: “All you are saying is that doing the best for them happens to be cooperation with others. However, that doesn’t change the fact that behind it all is selfishness.”

So what is the problem with selfishness and self-preservation, that cooperates with a societal goal and enhances cooperation with others also acting out of selfishness and self-preservation? Why does that bother you so?

ADAM: “As I said: Society justifies society’s views. The majority’s opinion is the justification for the validity of the majority’s opinion.”

Of course societies justify their own views on morality. The justification of an established morality is not the issue here. What is the issue is how that morality was established in the first place. Who cares about why people justify their morality or who is the majority of a moral view. That is irrelevant to the issue. What is important is how that morality was formed.

ADAM: “You are saying that the opinion of the majority is correct because they say that it is correct. That is not valid reasoning. I would be committing the same fallacy were I to say that the Bible is accurate because it says it is accurate.”

The difference is that the Bible is not a majority opinion or morality – it is just a book. What I am saying is not that they are correct because they say they are correct. What I am saying is that each society believes that it is correct. Again you are looking at the justification of an established morality and not how or why that morality was established in the first place. Each society views its morality as correct because it is that societies own morality. The Nazis thought they were morally correct in the murder of millions and the conquering of Europe. Genghis Khan and his followers thought they were doing the morally correct thing. Americans thought they were doing the morally correct thing when they entered the Second World War. Americans thought they were doing the morally correct thing when they entered the Kosovo Conflict. But how we justify our established morality is irrelevant. What is relevant is how and why we established that morality in the first place.

ADAM: “You are saying that hurting society is wrong because it goes against our instinct for self-preservation. In other words hurting society is simply going against instinct, like skipping a meal when you’re hungry. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with that.”

Your comment is almost not even worthy of discussion. But I did want to point out one item. Individual self-preservation is enhanced by established society. That is obvious and cannot be denied. But if a “rogue”, if you will, begins to hurt the society then the society will take action because the overall enhancement to self-preservation is affected. If an individual were to start poisoning the farmlands of America don’t you think the society of America would do something about it? How is our self-preservation enhanced by the destruction of our food chain? Answer: it’s not.

ADAM: “As I said, your morality basically comes down to evolutionary instinct.”

And why is that “bad”? What do you think your feelings and emotions are? They are evolutionary instincts. Where do you think your reasoning skills came from? Human evolution. Of course you’ll contest this on the simple fact that you do not believe in evolution and that God created emotions (Adam is responsible for anger and fear) and that reasoning skills are a gift from God. And that is why it is bad to say that evolutionary instincts and the formation of feelings and emotions are bad – because that premise goes against everything that Christianity stands for when it asserts that God is required for morality.

ADAM: “To say that any morality is an improvement is to compare it to the previous morality. To compare two moralities you need an absolute reference by which to compare them. Otherwise you are simply saying that one makes you feel better than the other, or makes more sense economically.”

You’re still missing the point. The “absolute reference” that you keep referring to is non-existent in the grand scheme of things. Each society makes its own absolute reference. When our views on morality change and we make laws to reflect those changing views we see that as an improvement based on our own created moral reference. Another society may view it differently.

For example, in France they have started to issue the morning after pill for high school girls that request it. In France that is a moral improvement because it cuts down on abortion (they have the lowest abortion rate among teenage girls). In America that would never be approved because our moral reference is different. In America we are more concerned about a 16-celled fetus then we are about the teenage girl that has to live with her mistake the rest of her life (which is a shame, of course). In America we are more concerned about a 32-celled fetus then we are about the child being raised (after birth) in a poor neighborhood and starving – never having a decent Christmas or birthday – living in poverty and lacking a decent education. In France, their moral reference is different. They decided that the reduction of abortion was more important and the concern for teenage mothers and children in poverty were more important than a 1 or 2-day old fetus. Bravo to them!

ADAM: “I asked where you see any moral improvement in today’s society over society that condoned slavery. My point is that without an absolute moral reference, it is impossible to say that any society’s moral views get better or worse. You must stick with the statement that the current society’s moral views suit your subjective opinion of what is right and wrong more or less than its former moral views.”

Since you are still talking about a non-existent absolute moral reference that is globally and total society encompassing – your issue is not addressable. The abolishment of slavery is a moral improvement because it increases self-preservation. Even for the Southerners. When they freed their slaves and began to pay them for their work – the freed slave was better motivated because there was a mutual benefit in the service.

ADAM: “It doesn’t matter what my views are about this. I asked you where you see the moral improvement in today’s society over a 19th century society when slavery was the norm?”

It does matter what your views are – you are part of the societal morality. I see a moral improvement in the abolishment of slavery because of my personal views. My personal views are influenced by my feelings, emotions, and reasoning. My feelings tell me that slavery just doesn’t feel right. My emotions display anger, disappointment, rage, hatred, sympathy, and others when I think of people being enslaved by others. My reasoning skills tell me that people will be more productive if they are paid for their services rather than being forced into it. My reasoning tells me – don’t enslave people – pay them!

ADAM: “I was not making a statement about my views on the subject. I was asking you, “where is the moral improvement in giving women equal rights?” Please answer my question.”

My feelings, emotions, and reasoning skills answer that question. You’re still looking for an absolute moral reference that affects all societies worldwide. It simply does not exist. Each society establishes its own reference. In Saudi Arabia their reference is that women are not equal and that America’s view on women’s equality is immoral. Of course countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq do not allow for emotion, feeling, or reasoning creating their morality. Their morality is based exclusively on the dictated commands of their God (Allah). And as we have discussed, and can see in some societies today, religious based morality does not and cannot work. Religious based morality is not moral – it is commanded. And how do we know that what is commanded is actually good or good simply because it is commanded?

ADAM: “How about communist countries? Their population had an even easier time serving the society.”

On the contrary – they did not have an easier time serving the society. The state ran everything and there was no incentive to excel at your job. If you were a state farmer you worked for nothing and therefore you were not motivated to turn out the best product and to make your farm as fruitful as possible. That is why Communism has failed in the long run. That is why lines at the bread store were three miles long. I fail to see where you draw the conclusion that Communism served their society better – are you blind? Once the farmers were able to sell their goods on the open market productivity skyrocketed. It skyrocketed because self-preservation and overall societal preservation was increased drastically when benefits were mutual and not exclusively for the state (not societal).

ADAM: “In the same way, for any morality to be judged better than another morality there has to be something objective and absolute to judge them against.”

That is why no morality is absolutely better than any other. Each moral view is better in the eyes of the person attesting to that moral view. American morality is better because Americans think it is. South African morality is better because South Africans think it is. There does not HAVE TO BE an absolute reference to judge morality against. And, as I’m sure you are heading in that direction, God cannot be an absolute reference. Every religion in the world has a different view on morality because their God has commanded different things as good – and we’ve already discussed the reasons god as a moral “yardstick” fails.

Are Atheists Immoral?

First, we need to establish what morals and morality are.

Morality

A doctrine or principle of moral principles or conduct.

Moral

Pertains to character and behavior from the point of view of right and wrong. Good and virtuous in behavior and character. Concerned with the principle of right and wrong, ethical, and capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong. To have a conscience which is often confused with conscious.

What makes humans unique is our ability to behave in a society in such a way that benefits the society in which we are living. We are social animals just like ants. Our behavior is based upon our societies and our societies are based upon our behavior. Our behavior can be altered and controlled based upon the needs of our societies (Nazi Germany is a good example).

Isn’t the law a “higher authority?”

We have a conscience that tells us right from wrong. We know right from wrong based on the needs of our society and, more importantly, from our experiences when we perceive wrongs committed against us. For example, if you feel sad when someone steals from you, then you associate that feeling with that action and do not commit that action yourself against others.

Why is it wrong to steal? Stealing is not beneficial to the overall society. If everyone ran around stealing all the time then you would not hold onto stuff very long. What you stole would only turn around and be stolen by someone else. You would have chaos and the society would crumble.

Killing someone only creates enemies out of the loved ones and allies of the person you killed. That is not very beneficial in the end is it? Alliances and friendships are important in societies.

Unfortunately this societal based morality can be (and has been) perceived as immoral when societies clash. For example, the Germans thought they were doing what was morally right as dictated by their society. Other societies thought their actions were immoral.

To understand humanity and the morality thereof you need to understand the cycles of societal behavior and the establishment thereof. For example, I can answer a question as an individual, as a member of the human race (society of humanity), or as a member of the many societies and sub-societies that we form. Examples of these societies are:

  • Our immediate familial society includes our spouses and children.
  • Our extended familial society includes our blood and marital relatives.
  • Our neighborhood society includes the surrounding homes on our street.
  • Our cultural society includes societies based on our religions, our gender, our sexual orientation, our activities and hobbies, and even our careers.
  • Our village, town, and city societies orientate themselves around the places we call home.
  • Our state society brings the villages, towns, and cities under a common flag, if you will.
  • Our country society brings the states under a common flag.
  • Our world society brings all countries and creeds together, for a common good or to fight amongst each other – united in humanity.

Each of us plays a different role in each of these societies. Within each major category of society are sub-societies that we participate in both directly and indirectly. As a member of each society we are required to justify ourselves to said societies. Take away the society and the need for justification (or morality – which is a higher form of justification) goes away.

Where does the “you can’t have morality without religion” come from?

The biggest proponent of religious based morality is the Fundamentalist. This group of theists composes less than twenty percent of the world’s population and is unmistakably the most vocal group of all.

We have already discussed the psychological needs of theism and gods. These psychological needs and the religious answers we generate to quench those needs mandate that our societies become spiritual and religious in nature.

Why do religious criminals outnumber their per capita equivalents?

Throughout history, our religious beliefs have based laws and rules. Leadership dictates morality by Divine Right of Law. God is said to grant sovereignty to the leader and the leader rules under the premise that god granted him or her power to dictate morality. This system worked until the Feudal Systems died out at the realization that state-mandated morality through god oppressed the people. Other governments and countries tried different variations of this theme and some hid the mandated morality behind other forms of government that appeared in essence to help the people.

The founding fathers of the United States realized this and wrote a Constitution that ensured the government could never mandate morality or religion through a singular group. Mandating religion through laws based on our personal religious beliefs is not the same thing, by the way. There are still countries where Divine Right of Law exists, though, even today.

What came first? Did societies form before organized religion? Of course, societies formed first. Why would there be a need for god authorities if there were no one that needed a god authority? Societies formed and established a societal code of morality based on their personal experiences. As religion developed, the morality incorporated into the religion and the religion swallowed up morality. To this day, many insist that there cannot be morality without religion.

Does that mean that without religion there can be no morality? We know that some of our laws are “based” on the religious convictions and views of our lawmakers – but that does not mean that the laws are religiously moral. For example, our laws surrounding murder are supposedly of a religious nature. If you look at the Ten Commandments, it is easy to make that connection. However, the sixth Commandment says, “Thou shall not KILL“. It does not say MURDER – it says KILL (although newer Bibles are replacing Kill with Murder (how convenient)).

As a nation that made those laws we wage war and kill others. If religion based our laws then we would never KILL. There would be no argument about the death penalty, abortion, war, or euthanasia. Therefore, while the religious beliefs of the lawmakers helped them formulate the law – it did not dictate it. The religion did not dictate the morality.

We use many things to create our laws. Where is the religious morality in the laws about no speeding, swimming after dark or illegal fishing? Our experience and non-religiously based morality base those laws.

There is no denying that belief in gods and the religiously dictated morality have shaped some of our current laws. When Tennessee has a law that any sexual position other than missionary is criminal then you know religious beliefs played a major part in making that law.

Before a theist (especially the Fundamentalist) can assert that God dictates morality, they must answer a few questions:

What morals have your god dictated to you?

Remember that laws of worship have nothing to do with morality so “have no idols before me” is not a moral issue. Also, remember that laws of justice have nothing to do with established morality; so stoning someone to death for adultery is not a moral issue. The adultery is the moral issue not the punishment. Also, remember that laws are not morality, either. So “eat no pork” is not a moral issue. It is a law. Please write down every moral established by your god.

The reason I ask this is that before one can assert that there can be no morality without a belief in a god, several issues need proving:

  1. There can be morality with the belief in God.
  2. God is a good moral role model.
  3. God does not promote, condone, endorse, or sanctify immorality.
  4. God defines morality and the morals thereof clearly and concisely.
  5. God adheres to his definition of morality and the morals thereof.

Once done, then one can make a beginning assertion: there can be no morality without a belief in god.

Once asserted, it will need proving. It will need proving that atheistic religions (such as Buddhism) are immoral. It will need proving that atheistic beliefs derive their morality from god.

Is Our Morality Just a Social Convention?

Yes and no. The major influence is societal but other influencing factors act directly and indirectly in the role of societal influence. The human animal is a social animal. If the social drive were to disappear overnight, things would change drastically. The compelling need for moral guidelines goes away when the influence of society and the drive to be social disappears. The need for cooperative living goes away. The need for self-preservation increases and the desire to preserve self over all others becomes a primary mission.

There is still self-preservation within a society but focused differently. If human beings were not social animals, the self-preservation factor would increase drastically. That is to say, that flight or fight become more important than it is now. Another human being in your territory becomes a threat and you must eliminate it. Human beings would only gather to copulate and reproduce.

Human beings living in isolation away from other humans and feral children show no signs of increased morality because they lacked a society that created a need for morality. The isolated human becomes aggressive and territorial. The image of the “mean old man” living in the woods by himself is somewhat based on the reality that isolation from society removes the need for a larger morality and self-preservation becomes the main driving factor.

It is the fact that we are social animals that requires morality to form. As social animals, can we run around killing everyone that walks through our grass? As social animals, can we run around stealing everything we want? No, a society will not last long under such conditions as those.

The question then becomes, what guidelines did the first societies use to establish the rules and guidelines that evolved into a complex moral structure? Several factors play into the formation of the rules and guidelines.

Perhaps Christians should be more concerned about justice here and now instead of being judged before their imaginary friend or a “day of judgment.”

Why are we social animals? What drove the solitary hunter/gatherer to associate with others of his kind and form the first mini-societies? We have all heard the phrase, “There is safety in numbers”, and we take it for granted. There really is safety in numbers. We can gather more food, hunt larger prey, more females tend to the young, and more males protect the group.

At the formation of the group, the guidelines and rules had to be established and they had to pick a leader. Obviously, there is no way to know exactly what procedures did they use to choose a leader back then. By looking at primitive cultures today, we have a basic idea of what may have happened. When they choose a leader and the guidelines and rules are set up, they have accomplished two things. They created the foundation for a moral structure and a moral “law enforcement”.

Personal experiences, group experience, knowledge of the known world, etc., is what developed the guidelines. In other words, if someone steals something from you how does it make you feel. Do you feel bad because you know its wrong, or do you feel bad because someone took your stuff? Because you feel bad, you associate that act with being bad and create a rule against it. The first societies established their rules and guidelines based on their personal experiences. They established new rules and guidelines as new situations developed, which required the intervention of a leader. The leader would make a choice and that choice would become a new guideline.

What it boils down to is that our personal experience with things done against us helps us to establish what is wrong or right. When someone does something to us and it makes us feel bad then we know what that someone did was wrong. We know what we did is wrong by instinct and feeling – not because someone tells us, it is wrong. If morality were nothing more than a code of laws, dictated down by a Supreme Being, then there would be no emotion attached to things done against us. We would know something is wrong because god told us it was wrong – not because we felt it was wrong.

Our leaders, regardless of how chosen, create the guidelines and rules we live by based on those experiences and other factors. Even to this day, our representatives in government make guidelines and rules based on their experiences. Our feelings about actions against others and us create laws and morality.

We, as an animal species, want to protect our species and specifically, our young. We know how it makes us feel when our young are threatened. We know what a mother and father’s protective instincts feel like. These feelings toward our young reflect in our social morality and the laws we create based on that morality. We create child restraint laws (mandatory seat belts), laws requiring children to use bicycle helmets, and a multitude of other laws to protect our children. Does religion base these laws? No, they are based exclusively on our personal experiences that we have had with our children and based on our feelings when we hear of a child’s death that could have been prevented if “a” was used or “b” was prevented. Then we create laws to ensure that “a” is used and to prevent “b.”

Of course, that does not justify emotional unthinking legislation. Unthinking legislation is another issue altogether.