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It is often assumed that atheists lack the moral fortitude of our religious counterparts. I want to shed some light on this subject. Although I cannot speak on behalf of all atheists I can share my personal philosophy and the foundations of my morality.

First of all I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that we atheists are morally pliable because there are no strict set of guidelines for us. Although I subscribe to no particular rulebook my morals are firmly set. They started with the basic social norms as I think most do and have evolved over time through personal experience, introspection and empathy. I have critiqued them often and occasionally made an adjustment but they have remained pretty stable throughout my adult life. I do not claim moral perfection but I have a strong moral compass.

Another misconception is that our morality is unstable because we do not fear judgment. This is totally wrong, I know for a fact I will be judged based on my actions by a being that knows everything I do and even my intentions. As the arbiter of my moral code I am harshly critical of infractions and slow to forgive. I have neither a panacea of conscience nor an external scapegoat, my actions are entirely my own. If I harm another I must live with it knowing I have nobody to blame but myself. If I cannot correct the harm done I must live with the guilt which strengthens my resolve to do better in the future.

Next we have the idea that atheists have no motivation to good in the world. Although it is true I don't expect to be rewarded when my time here is over that in no way diminishes my capacity for altruism. The expectation of reward actually negates the possibility of true altruism. I do good in this world because I believe that selfless kindness is a virtue of the highest order and worthy of striving for. As Gandhi said, "be the change you wish to see in the world". I also believe that apathy is a form of immortality itself. Having a high capacity for empathy I cannot imagine ignoring suffering when it is within my power to ease it. I recognize my limitations in this regard but I do what I can.

Finally we come to the idea that an atheist's life is depressed and devoid of meaning. Again I can only speak for myself but my life is anything but depressed or meaningless. When I look at the world it is through my understanding of science. When I look at a living creature I see the incredible intricacies of its genetic structure and the symbiotic harmony of it's cellular structure. I see the 3.6 billion years of uninterrupted evolutionary struggle that crafted its form. I see the intergalactic journey of the atoms that compromise it and before that the atomic forge in the heart of a long dead star that created them. Is see all this and so much more and I am left in awe. Further amazed by the incredible chance to be the eyes by which the universe looks upon itself in wonder and filled with gratitude for this opportunity.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well said, thank you. (18+ / 0-)

    I've never understood why more theists don't seize upon the complexity and longevity of the evolutionary process as further evidence of the subtlety and majesty of their God. But, then, they always do seem to choose their battles unwisely, in almost every regard.

    "[T]he preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks is of more importance to the public than all the property of all the rich men in the country." - John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law. (1765)

    by AnacharsisClootz on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 11:35:34 AM PDT

  •  Only through the delusion of religions can an (9+ / 0-)

    otherwise reasonable person justify expending and neglecting their own life in the pursuit of another's dream.

    Spirituality is common to humans, but it takes religion to make a good employee.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

    by Greyhound on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 11:39:06 AM PDT

  •  And where do we atheists turn in times of trouble? (16+ / 0-)

    Sometimes it is to folks of similar ilk. Your expression of the morality of an atheist reassures me and gives me hope for the future. It tells me that there is someone working within their sphere of influence as I am in mine to do what they can to make our world better. Thank you for providing what I needed at the moment that I needed it.

    “The aim of mankind should be to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”--Edith Hamilton (1867-1963)

    by cinepost on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 11:40:15 AM PDT

  •  And don't forget the atheist has no incentive t... (44+ / 0-)

    And don't forget the atheist has no incentive to be moral because there's no threat of eternal damnation. I usually respond to this by asking what kind of people need to be threatened with hell in order to be civil to each other.

    •  I agree... (0+ / 0-)

      though I do find myself hoping that hell does exist so that so many people who were horrible in life would burn for eternity.  I know this isn't very forgiving...sometimes I do hope the worst for some.  

      "[I]n the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone...They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand."

      by cardboardurinal on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:07:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The problem with this is when (4+ / 0-)

        you delve into the backgrounds and lives of "horrible" people, there are usually a myriad of mitigating circumstances that made them that way.  

        I actually find hell one of the most immoral conceptions ever devised.  Eternal torture for deeds done in a finite life?

      •  Yikes. (0+ / 0-)

        If hell existed, the moral thing to do would be to make every effort to get people out of there.

        •  I never claimed... (0+ / 0-)

          To be a paragon of morality.  I have things I hate, things (and people) I believe can never be redeemed.  I am a very angry person and hope that some get what is due to them.

          "[I]n the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone...They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand."

          by cardboardurinal on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 05:54:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not a perfect being either, just semi-logical. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mopshell, RiveroftheWest

            I just don't believe that kind of thing would be due to anyone.

            I've thought about it before, and concluded that if heaven and hell were real places, I could not be happy in heaven with the knowledge that there was even a single person in hell.  It doesn't even matter if they were someone I knew or not.

            Some depictions of those places try to solve this problem by saying that in heaven, one would not have that concern or otherwise not know about hell.  Others say that hell really isn't endless, or isn't really torture.

            I've never found those to be particularly good solutions for the basic underlying problem.  Because my basic human empathy would turn heaven into hell.

            I would imagine the same would be true of any person that was actually a moral person.

            •  I guess we differ... (0+ / 0-)

              In that regard.

              "[I]n the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone...They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand."

              by cardboardurinal on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 09:01:39 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  To me the basis of my morality (11+ / 0-)

    Is the fact that cooperation accomplishes much more than confrontation.  Thus helping another person is preferable to hurting that person.  It's really that simple.

    As for awe of the world - same as the diarist.  I see incredible beauty in nature, and I derive solace that when I'm dead my body will be recycled by the earth, and at least my material (at least the material left in my body at the end) will end up in other living things.

    Great attempt at a complex subject.

  •  When skeptics start running for... (7+ / 0-)

    ..and winning elections, only then will  broken institutions start to heel.

    Don't hold your breath.


    What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. SAM HARRIS

    by Cpqemp on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 11:50:23 AM PDT

  •  Those that rule out morality without religion... (13+ / 0-)

    ...are ignorant.

    The Greeks were the first to have a discussion about morality.  Socrates and Aristotle talked about "ethics" also known as moral philosophy.

    Or worse, they are totalitarian theocrats.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action. UID: 9742

    by Shockwave on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 11:53:49 AM PDT

  •  Blessed are those... (11+ / 0-)

    ...who do the right thing without the expectation of a bountiful reward nor the fear of eternal damnation.

  •  God is irrelevant to morality (11+ / 0-)

    If morality is a personal code of right and wrong, then God has nothing to do with it.

    If your instructions on what is right or wrong come from a deity and the only reason you follow them is fear or reprisal, then you aren't moral - you're obedient.

    If you choose to follow them rather than simply fearing obedience, then why?  Whatever justification is your actual morality, not who theoretically created the words.

    Without a deity, we simply create the words ourselves (or adopt someone else's words).  The result is the same.

    All morality is fundamentally derived from an aesthetic preference, generally that life is more valuable/worthy than non-life.

  •  Thanks for this. I'm a unicorn atheist: (21+ / 0-)

    black and female. Yes, we exist. But we are rare. I'm very active within black atheist community and there's progress along these lines.

    Never as quickly as I'd like, but we are making progress and coming out - and supporting each other in an often VERY hostile existence.

  •  Beautifully put (17+ / 0-)

    For me, as an atheist, I feel a more urgent need to address the inequalities and injustices I see around me. I don't have the luxury of giving my burdens to a god, of handing over the responsibility of the tough stuff, or tossing it aside as "God's will".  

    The world's problems would be better addressed if instead of turning to religion to guide actions we addressed them as if our lives depended on it. Usually someone's life does.

  •  Another point (5+ / 0-)

    Those with an inflexible religious code apply it to everyone, but, since they are aware of their own situations and motivations, may find it easier to excuse themselves (and similarly if less so, family, friends and neighbors, and those who share their position in society) than those they do not know well and with whom they have little in common.

    I believe I have an inflexible moral code, but since it is personal (if somewhat shared with my circle), I have the opposite reaction. I am far more likely to find problems with an action by someone close to me, or in a position like mine, than with a stranger, and most likely to find them with my own actions. (Regrettably, this doesn't mean that all my actions are blameless or well-carried-out. Working on it, slowly.)

  •  I do find myself depressed. (5+ / 0-)

    This has nothing to do with my lack of belief.  I am generally depressed because of the state of the world and the state of humanity (or lack thereof).  My moral beliefs are what guide this depression, and I would hope that believers are depressed for some of the same reasons.

    "[I]n the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone...They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand."

    by cardboardurinal on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:10:56 PM PDT

    •  Depression can be related to thought processes. (2+ / 0-)

      It is also very dependent on neurotransmitter levels and physical bases.

      Misspelling in the diary brings up something I know too well.

      I also believe that apathy is a form of immortality itself.
      Apathy is the hallmark of depression. There is nothing to live for, nothing to die for. Apathy is not immorality as much as an abnormal perspective. It is not a choice, it overtakes the mind.

      "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

      by Ginny in CO on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 01:17:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Would not apply (3+ / 0-)

        I wouldn't apply this standard to someone suffering from a mental illness such as depression. I lost ten years of my life to it, believe me I know.

      •  I thought the diarist meant to type (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest

        "immorality" not "immortality" - I think it's a typo.

        Please note that lamps in the Magic Lamp Emporium are on a genie time-share program so there may be a slight delay in wish fulfillment. (◕‿◕)

        by Mopshell on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 07:39:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, Mopshell

          It was meant to be immorality.

          •  This is a fine diary; thank you for writing it. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            niemann, Mopshell

            I too looked at that one line and wondered if maybe you'd meant to write "empathy" and/or "immorality." In any case, lots of good thoughtful ideas here -- thanks!

          •  Which I understood and referenced in (0+ / 0-)

            the comment.

            Apathy is not immorality
            I still don't understand why you think apathy is a form of immorality.

            I know this too well because I'm on my 13th year lost to depression.

            "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

            by Ginny in CO on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 07:38:48 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Which is why I said (0+ / 0-)
          Misspelling in the diary brings up something I know too well.
          And I still do NOT believe that apathy is a form of immorality.

          "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

          by Ginny in CO on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 07:35:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I acknowledged I wouldn't apply this standard (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            serendipityisabitch

            To one suffering from mental illness. I stated elsewhere that I lost 10 years of my life to depression. I still however stand by my statement when applied to an otherwise healthy individual. If you are apathetic to the suffering of another the you have lost or subdued your capacity for empathy. If you have the power to help another but just do not care I deem that immoral.

            •  It did need restating. However, your restatement (0+ / 0-)

              brings up another can of worms. Consider that most human beings are suffering in one way or another. Even within a close circle of friends it is possible to burn yourself out trying to even mitigate the pain around you.

              Empathy by itself is almost totally useless. Strong empathy can easily lead to exhaustion - the process of trying to put yourself in everybody else's shoes brings up paradox after paradox, and it can lead to a situation in which all you have to offer is "I feel your pain". Not a good start to actually doing anything about any specific problem.

              If your statement is taken as written, you are accusing the entire human race of immorality, for lack of omnipotence.

              mouseover the bar (I'm practicing for DK5)

              by serendipityisabitch on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 02:56:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Over analysis (0+ / 0-)

                I never suggested that you must act on any, much less all of your impulses. The point is that when you simply don't care you have lost one of the foundations of morality. Empathy may not fix problems in itself but it can lead to it when its in your power, apathy cannot. In the absence of empathy, apathy rules and morality will break down.

          •  Perhaps I should have spelled this out better (0+ / 0-)

            I thought it was clear from context but I am specifically speaking about apathy towards the suffering of others.

    •  For me this is it (3+ / 0-)

      I'm a believer, and often I tell myself that the reason I'm a believer is that without the hope of a "final justice", I would go crazy. The world is so full of injustice.. cheaters win.. honest men lose.. the strong oppress the weak and are rewarded for it.  I could not STAND it were it not for the small measure of comfort it brings me to hope that there will be a final reckoning.

      So maybe my faith is a stopper keeping hope from escaping from me.

      •  I definitely understand that... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blueoasis, Hark, RiveroftheWest

        role.  I wish I could believe the same, but as we all know, beliefs cannot be forced.

        "[I]n the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone...They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand."

        by cardboardurinal on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 02:48:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I can understand that. (3+ / 0-)

        I hope that believing in a sort of final justice doesn't keep you from pursuing justice in this life.

        I'm generally critical of belief for this reason because it seems to me that apathy is more likely the result of such a belief.

        If it helps, consider that we (as a species) are gradually improving lives through the long arc of history.  So all those steps towards the pursuit of justice might not be able to get the villains of the past, but it will suppress those who would otherwise be villains in the future.

        I don't have any sort of faith, but it's what I think about.

    •  I understand (0+ / 0-)

      I lost a decade to depression brought on by the horrible state the world is in. Im going to do a diary about how I overcame it as soon as I have time.

  •  I like this diary. (10+ / 0-)

    You've explained your atheism without attacking the beliefs of anyone else.

    Thanks.

    "Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come." --Rumi

    by karmsy on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:12:39 PM PDT

  •  You know (12+ / 0-)

    The philosopher Kai Nielsen put it well.  I'm paraphrasing: an atheistic morality can justify moral equality and respect, can justify just as much as religion, but without requiring a "crucifixion of the intellect."

    I sometimes want to ask religious people whether they act morally only because of their religion.  Would they not feel empathy or act on principle if they somehow "lost their religion"?  The moral people I know are not moral because of religion.  Their morality does not depend on religiosity.  

    Like Nielsen (and the diarist, I think), I believe morality is more important in a secular world.  The responsibility is on us, there are no guarantees, and we have to make our actions count.

    "It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us in trouble. It's the things we know that ain't so." (Artemus Ward)

    by Silencio on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:17:57 PM PDT

  •  the basis for the old calumny that atheists (7+ / 0-)

    lack a moral compass is based on Pascal's Wager.  While most will not admit it, many Christians are believers because of the fear of Hell.  That is why the reason more of them do not sin more is not because of superior moral fiber but only a lack of opportunity for them.

    We have noticed more believers behaving badly, ranging from murder to rape to incest to theft to bestiality (I won't post the links but you get the idea) lately.  I think this is due to Christians finally hitting upon a theology which allows them to enjoy their lives but still grant them salvation.

    The first concept is that works are irrelevant; only faith is required for salvation.  No matter what you do, so long as you believe, you are saved.

    Second is that once saved always saved so if you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior one time in your life, you are saved forever.  No matter what you do later in life, you cannot lose your salvation.

    Easy Peasy Christianity.  You don't have to do anything except to proclaim that you believe.  Other than that, party like there is no tomorrow    

  •  Judeo-Christian "morality"? What is that? (8+ / 0-)

    If we look at the texts for the Levantine religions, we're hard-pressed to find the truly "moral" -- at least without a ton of cruelty and viciousness surrounding it all.

    The bible is filled to the breaking point with sadism, mass cruelty, frequent genocide, torture, jealous rage, etc. etc. and that's just the part that comes from the father god of the book. Throw in countless other characters who act in the most reprehensible of manners and justify that on the shakiest of grounds, and there is no basis to hold up the bible as some kind of great moral guidepost.

    And the Second Coming in Christianity? Nothing is more evil or sadistic in all the world's religions. It calls for the total annihilation of every non-Christian and adds their eternal damnation to the mix.

    Of course, the above requires "literal" belief to really highlight the evilness involved, and people can glean some beautiful passages from the various books of the bible. But the overall trajectory? Genocide, misogyny, racism, petty vindictiveness, jealous rage and absolute sadism throughout, ending in the mother of all genocides.

    There is no "atheist" text that can possibly compete with the levels of depravity and sociopathology of the bible, and there is no "atheist" call for the total annihilation of all non-atheists, etc. etc.  

    “While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.” ― Chinua Achebe . . . {Economic Left/Right: -9.12 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.77}

    by diomedes77 on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:26:45 PM PDT

    •  Some of the Anarchist-Nihilist literature (0+ / 0-)

      from the relatively mild Mikhail Bakunin to the worst of all, Sergei Nechaev, makes that grade. It calls for destroying all "evil" social structures built on oppression, and then requires destroying any that attempt to grow up to succeed them. Bomb-throwing assassins are the least of it within its own theory.

      I don't recommend actually reading any of it unless you have a professional interest in actual bomb-throwing assassins, Eldridge Cleaver, or the murderous Red Brigades in Italy or any others like them that took this stuff seriously.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 10:19:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Regarding Bakunin (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        diomedes77

        you're misinterpreting. Bakunin wanted to "destroy" the state as an institution, to replace it with a very different kind of organization. That doesn't mean what you think it means. Bakunin wasn't at all a nihilist. Only someone not familiar with the whole of his writings, instead relying on secondary sources, would claim this.

        The context of the period when Bakunin wrote much of his works was a time when it was widely thought that revolution was imminent. Bakunin had been imprisoned. Anarchists were oppressed and anarchism outlawed in some countries.

        Now, if you don't view the state as oppressive, and don't see wage-labor as exploitative (as I assume you don't) then you would probably take this philosophy as a threat to all you hold dear. Anarchists don't condone the wage-slavery and exploitation of the owning class, and of course they would "destroy" classism, the same as any form of exploitation would be opposed.

        Regarding religion, he strongly felt that freedom of religion must be allowed to exist, but that it should not have political power. When he wrote of "destroying" authority of religion and the state, he meant destroying the base of power. It would be the same as people wanting to destroy racism, or destroy despotism, or destroy fascism.

        This is far from nihilism.

        "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

        by ZhenRen on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 10:51:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You assume incorrectly (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          serendipityisabitch

          Check out my Diaries on The Theory of the Leisure Class. Part 2 will appear on Monday.

          I said Bakunin was mild, compared with his sometime buddy Nechaev. But no matter what utopian humanitarian principles he espoused, he was always at the heart of violent revolutionary activities all across Europe, and his notions of utopian government remained coercive, as with all ideologues who assume that the people will do just what they want because it is so obviously right, or else.

          As he himself put it, with no sense of irony,

          If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar himself.

          Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

          by Mokurai on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 07:02:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Which you've misunderstood completely (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            diomedes77

            That last line reflects quite clearly anarchist analysis of power and authority, and representative government, and the view that even the most anti-class worker, when given authority, ends up serving the interests of authority, and not the working class, which is why anarchist don't support giving autocratic power to anyone, but instead call for mandated and recallable delegates who hold functionary posts.

            I'd say its a virtual certainty you've not read much of Bakunin, but take your interpretations from secondary sources.

            He disavowed the younger Nechaev after his nature became clear. Nechaev won the friendship of many with his magnetism, but was kept more and more at a distance as time went on.

            Bakunin certainly wanted revolution. But that didn't make him different than, say, George Washington or the American revolutionaries, except that he would have fought for working people against the owning class. He was always for the emancipation of working people.

            In that era, when the industrial age was in full forward motion, and worker exploitation was horrible, the feeling in the air was of change, and it was thought that people were on the verge of revolt. Look at the Paris commune. The entire socialist movement lauded the Commune, including Marx and his followers, but no one calls Marx a nihilist.

            Basically, the reason you would call him a nihilist is because he opposed the state, and capitalism. If he had lived in 1776 and fought for the completely bourgeois American revolution, to put the owning class (white men with property) in charge (for they were the only ones allowed to vote), you would be applauding him as a fighter for "democracy".

            I could provide quote after quote of rather uplifting, hopeful, humanitarian statements he made, and he did not condone indiscriminate violence and killing civilians or non-combatants. In fact, the vast majority of anarchists never condoned violence of that nature. Even the few bombings were done by individuals, always against specific targets (not indiscriminate) during the period from 1880 to 1900. Most did not accept this form of resistance, and for the most part this became more and more infrequent as anarchists clearly were not in favor of the approach.

            "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

            by ZhenRen on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 09:06:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Read Kropotkin's Mutual Aid (0+ / 0-)

        Kropotkin, who followed in the anarchist tradition set by Bakunin, was far from a nihilist, and he saw social animals as having an instinct toward cooperation and reciprocity as an evolved survival trait.

        Some of Bakunin's writings eloquently spoke of human freedom and solidarity, of equality, and mutuality. He may have wanted to "destroy" oppression, but his vision of what would replace it, a free society based on economic and political equality, with each person treated as having the right to live, as a human, not a commodity, in a world free of coercion, it is what profoundly made him a humanitarian.

        "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

        by ZhenRen on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 11:07:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Followed up in scientific biology (0+ / 0-)

          as Dawkins described in The Selfish Gene, ironically titled because so much of it is about the evolution of cooperative and altruistic behaviors that in fact further genetic replication and survival. See also the non-genetic work described in The Evolution of Cooperation by Robert Axelrod, which I will Diary in my Grokking Republicans series.

          Nevertheless Kropotkin was a violent Utopian revolutionary, of the Propaganda of the Deed school, who had less than no idea of how to create his Libertarian Utopia of all-voluntary associations, but was willing to resort to violence on a national scale in order to try. He did correctly object to the authoritarian methods of the Bolsheviks, but by then it was too late.

          Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

          by Mokurai on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 07:16:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  As opposed to "unscientific" biology? (0+ / 0-)

            Kropotkin was a biologist, who studied zoology, and was well aware of the theory of evolution. Have you read Mutual Aid?

            And no, all that I said above about Bakunin applies doubly to the gentle Kropotkin, who had at first accepted the tactic, but at some point spoke against propaganda of the deed, which itself was an idea much misunderstood, but also not adopted by most anarchists.

            As to utopianism, that is absurd. Anarchist theory has never been utopian. Proudhon, in fact, rejected utopianism, and raised the idea of "scientific" socialism even before Marx, although Bakunin thought Marxist "scientific" socialism was too doctrinaire and was disgusted by the fixation.  Anarchists hold the view that utopianism implies a fixed, perfect, unchangeable system, rather than one which continues to improve and evolve, and which is based on local preferences of communities. A uniform, "perfect system" cannot be imposed universally and expected to succeed. Such perfection implies no need for spontaneity and change to reflect changing conditions, and no need for autonomous adaptation to different ethnic backgrounds, or diversity of people. A perfect utopian system would be oppressive, a form of slavery to an ideal. Anarchism holds no such illusions. Anarchism is a social structure which has at times spontaneously come about, reflecting the natural desire for social and political equality.

            As to violence, anarchists view the imposed wage slavery and economic and political inequality based on property, enforced ultimately by the security apparatus of the state (military and police), as violence, and believe it is self defense to oppose it. In other words, assuming you are capitalist, anarchists view you as violent!

            During those years, there was a strong sense of injustice among the working class, and many felt worker opposition en mass was imminent (which the Paris commune, the Russian revolution, the Spanish Revolution reflected).

            And it was Bakunin who first objected to Marxist authoritarianism, and warned that the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" would lead to an oppressive socialist state, that it would be merely a change in bosses for the working class, but not real emancipation. Kropotkin (and most anarchists) held the same view even before the Bolsheviks became a force. Anarchists were hopeful that the Russians would turn at least to some degree of libertarian forms of socialism, but alas, they adopted a statist, top-down style, and became very oppressive.

            "Liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." - Michael Bakunin (Economic Left/Right: -10.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.79)

            by ZhenRen on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 10:33:32 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this diary (5+ / 0-)

    I am bookmarking it.  As a liberal Christian, we have many atheist and agnostic friends who spend their lives serving their fellow man and being excellent stewards of the earth and the atmosphere that surrounds it.  

    Here in Texas, as least, I've seen more demonstration of a loving spirit from the "nonbelievers" than most of the conservative evangelicals that surround us with negativity.

    Everything is connected; this I believe.

    The truth always matters.

    by texasmom on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:30:53 PM PDT

  •  If nothing we do matters... (4+ / 0-)

    ...then all that matters is what we do.

    At least, according to Angel.

    I'm not so much atheist as agnostic (or maybe an "I-dunno-ist"), but I've still got plenty of motivation to be moral, starting with basic empathy for my fellow human beings - acting towards them in the ways I'd want others to act towards me. Being an irredeemable bastard to other people is just not something that comes naturally to me, and anyway, it'd leave me miserable and alone, which is not how I want to go through life.

    •  Atheist is actually a pretty inclusive category. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mopshell, RiveroftheWest

      Atheist is just simply the opposite of a theist.  It means you don't believe in the theist proposition.  Not knowing is atheism.

      The term atheist has a lot of baggage hung onto it by the theists over the centuries (so it makes sense people might not want to be associated with those people), but it's really just a word to indicate a lack of belief.  It covers a pretty wide range of thoughts, but at its core, you either believe in theism or you do not.

      A good way to think about this is like this.  There are people who believe that aliens abduct humans in order to poke them with a stick and then return them otherwise untouched.  I don't believe that happens.

      Not believing those claims doesn't mean I think intelligent life does not exist outside Earth.  It doesn't mean I know that any specific case is necessarily not intelligent alien life.  Lots of abduction believers make this mistake.

      Not believing doesn't mean that one thinks there's evidence against the proposition.  It means you just don't believe the proposition.  Possibly because the proponents have failed to meet some basic level of support for their claims.  Possibly for other reasons.

      There's good reasons to think that aliens are not visiting Earth.  (Astronomy and physics, etc...)  But that's a claim, and I don't need to make that case in all circumstances.  I don't need to know any of that in order not to believe the claim.

      In fact, probably in general the best response to an alien abduction claim is to apply basic skepticism to the argument presented, rather than build a case for the opposite.  After all, the aliens could always be using magic to overcome any problem I might know about.

      Not knowing makes you just as much of an atheist as the fellow who claims that the christian god (or any other god) doesn't exist.

      The difference is that in speaking to others, one of those positions would be a claim that would have to be justified, and the other is not.

  •  it is difficult to believe (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, Mopshell

    that these misconceptions are really widely held in America. After all Americans can think no worse than others. At least, I assume so.

    really this is like wondering if water is wet. We are humans, so we are moral beings.

    •  Plenty of Evangelicals claim quite loudly and even (0+ / 0-)

      viciously that nobody can be moral in any way except by accepting Jesus as their personal savior. These are people who can believe almost any nonsense that suits their fears and hatreds, so it is no good bringing up evidence to them.

      Some of it is theological, the doctrine of Total Depravity that goes back to Augustine, and was greatly emphasized by Luther, Calvin, and others later.

      It is also no good quoting Paul to them.

      Romans 2:14

      For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
      If Augustine, Luther, and Calvin could ignore that, why then it's no problem at all for their followers.

      A corollary is that the sins of Evangelical and Catholic RWNJ politicians can be forgiven upon confession, but not anybody else, who must therefore be hounded mercilessly from office.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 10:34:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  One pew poll (0+ / 0-)

      Conducted not too long ago found atheists are less trusted than rapists among religious Americans.

  •  I studied atheism ansd theism for decades. (4+ / 0-)

    The greatest atheist philosopher who can explain all parts of it to depths almost unimaginable is George H. Smith.  

    Youl see many other videos on him there too - and his writings are available - some free.

    Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

    by dov12348 on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:33:53 PM PDT

  •  Simply, I try to follow the Golden Rule in general (5+ / 0-)

    and attempt to "pay forward" support and help for others.  Because we're all in this existence together, however long we have to live, learn and contribute.

    Other than that, there's laws and local culture that fine-tunes my actions and constraints on such to some respect.

    "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

    by wader on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:44:29 PM PDT

    •  The Golden Rule as stated is a dud (0+ / 0-)

      Nobody wants to be treated the way I like to be treated. You wouldn't like my diet; you would hate most of what I enjoy reading; and most of all I have to be very careful whom I argue with, because few enjoy a good knock-'em-down and drag-'em-out argument about math or science or philosophy the way I do. In my days in the Buddhist monastery I actually enjoyed the relative asceticism. We didn't go in for Jesuit barbed-wire belts or old-style Trappist starvation, but it was quite austere by most people's standards.

      Treating people with as much respect as you would like, and so on in that vein, is OK, as long as you ask what respect means to them, and don't apply your own version to them. Being willing to save other people's lives would be great. We could end poverty and oppression worldwide. But we can't even talk about that, much less get serious about doing it.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 10:46:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't care about definitions or diets (0+ / 0-)

        None of that matters in the Golden Rule notion, I feel.

        It means that if I try to consider your perspective in making my own actions (and inactions) in a context-sensitive manner, I'm hoping others will consider similar ways of acting/inacting based upon their understanding of others.  

        This isn't about treating everyone the same.

        "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

        by wader on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 08:36:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Why distinguish "atheist morality"? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fauxrs, Ginny in CO, blueoasis

    I don't particularly care about the specific source of your personal morals; the full spectrum of what we name "morality" can be found among atheists, agnostics, and theists alike.

    No, I'm far more interested in how you put your morality into practice - how you deal with the rest of us. Treat folks well, and I'll treat you well. With any luck at all, we'll both make our way through this life with a modicum of contentment.

    I've often said that "you don't have to march in step to walk beside me." The phrase seems appropriate here; if nothing else, I think we'd share a sense of awe as we look at the night sky.

    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

    by wesmorgan1 on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:47:06 PM PDT

    •  There is a need (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KMc, Paul Rogers, RiveroftheWest

      I wrote this to right the misconceptions among many theists about the moral compass of atheists. Fostering this understanding is necessarily to start to change the minds and hearts of our religious counterparts.

      •  To further the nitpicking ;) (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Paul Rogers

        What you described isn't really an atheist morality, but a secular humanist morality, and one that I tend to share.

        Atheism and secular humanism go rather well together, like peanut butter and chocolate, but atheism in and of itself offers no particular moral guidance.

        •  I understand your point (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ozy, RiveroftheWest

          And I consider myself a humanist as well but I value all life, it is rare that I purposefully harm an insect. In my final passage I specifically use the word creature. This is a brief summary of how I, as an atheist, have constructed a sturdy moral framework and I twice point out I am only speaking for myself.

  •  Re: morality (8+ / 0-)

    I have had long discussions on this with some hard-line Christian acquaintances, who have told me point-blank that the only reason they don't go on killing sprees or steal things or commit other crimes is the Bible.

    That's not "morality". Morality is knowing and doing what is right, because you know it to be right, not because someone else is forcing you to do it.

    "He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

    by Hayate Yagami on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 01:00:56 PM PDT

  •  As an atheist I don't feel the (5+ / 0-)

    compulsion to torture you to death to save your soul.

    A corporate duopoly indeed.

    by gendjinn on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 01:03:56 PM PDT

    •  Yeah.. .why couldn't Jesus just (0+ / 0-)

      come down and give a series of lectures on salvation instead of suffering in all the Mel Gibson scenes?  Makes one wonder about the morality of his "father".

    •  That actually makes sense. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mopshell, RiveroftheWest

      If hell existed, it would be the moral thing to do whatever it takes to prevent people from being sent there.  Since anyone being sent there is an infinite punishment, any short-term suffering one inflicts is negligible to attain the goal of one less soul in hell.

      Accepting a hell exists could allow a logical person to kill those that spread alternative ideas, use torture to force conversions and generally act like a terrible human being.

      I notice history...

      •  Dostoevsky put that in The Brothers Karamazov (0+ / 0-)

        in a parable that Ivan tells his brother Alyosha, a novice Russian Orthodox monk. The Grand Inquisitor patiently explains all of that to the returned Jesus so that Jesus will understand why they must burn him to death in the morning.

        I have always felt that the finitude of the Buddhist Hells, which is due to the finite power of even the worst karma, is a major advantage of Buddhism over Christianity.

        Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

        by Mokurai on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 10:54:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  To be honest (5+ / 0-)

    as atheist myself, I am scared of people who claim they can't behave in a moral and ethical fashion without some powerful outside force compelling them to do so with threats of violence and torture (like burning in hell).

  •  approx. 400bc (5+ / 0-)

    Socrates proved that a god or gods was not required to ground morality. For, if morality was grounded in the commands of a god then those commands would not be given for independent moral reasons. If rape was immoral only because a god forbade it, then god could just as well have made rape moral. Indeed, even clear thinking theists must acknowledge that god forbids rape because it is wrong; it's not wrong just because god forbids it. Hence, the grounds of morality must be independent of any god's commands. The alternative is a theistic form of relativism.

    Of course, theists may maintain that even if the grounds of morality are independent of any god's commands we must turn to god for moral knowledge, guidance, and fortitude. However, this is an empirically testable hypothesis, and it turns out not to be the case that theists behave more morally than atheists. In fact, the persistent belief in the thesis that a "relationship with god" is necessary for moral knowledge, guidance, or fortitude is nothing more than religious bigotry. We would recognize immediately as an anti-semite anyone who argued that Jews are less moral because they don't have a relationship with Jesus, and we should recognize immediately as based on bigotry the analogous claim about atheists.

    Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

    by play jurist on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 02:02:34 PM PDT

  •  morality's mostly social & religion takes credit (4+ / 0-)

    Most of our morality originally comes from social interaction.  We learn that if we behave a certain way, life is easier for us.  If we behave another way, people become angry at us or mistrustful of us, and life becomes more difficult.

    Some of this we learn the hard way, by experience.  Some of it is taught to us and, logically, it makes sense.  We learn charity through empathy -- we know we'd want help if we were in a certain situation, so, we give it.

    We don't need religion to motivate us to do these things.  In fact, religion is a false motivation, that cheapens your morality.  It makes it selfish;  you're being kind because you expect some reward.  

    Also, much reality is just in our nature.  I know people who aren't religious and who've been treated badly, but they still do acts of kindness.  Perhaps it's because they've been hurt by others and don't want to be guilty of the same thing, I don't know... but I do know it doesn't come from religion.

    Religion can provide some good moral examples and parables and stuff... those can be useful.  It can also provide a social environment where virtues are prized and rewarded.  But, just as often I've seen it (usually among right-wing fundies) reward bad, evil behaviors.  Racism, for example, has much of its main support and maintenance in churches.

    I know religion loves to take credit for it, but morality really has little to do with faith.

    "Glenn Beck ends up looking like a fat, stupid child. His face should be wearing a chef's hat on the side of a box of eclairs. " - Doug Stanhope

    by Front Toward Enemy on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 02:23:32 PM PDT

    •  Exactly. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Front Toward Enemy

      Morality is a survival feature. There are just as many moral atheists as there are moral persons who have religious beliefs. This is because the two - morality and beliefs - have nothing whatsoever to do with each other.

      Nature sees to it that we feel good when we do good and the good opinion of others reinforces that feeling. Those with their moral compasses out of whack are individuals who tend towards masochism or sadism (to varying degrees because it isn't restricted to extremes of either).

      At some point in the development of religion, morality was co-opted as a means of justifying adherence to religious belief. That's when morality became indoctrinated. But morality is as independent of belief as eye color is to the perception of color.

      Morality is also part of the evolutionary process.

      Please note that lamps in the Magic Lamp Emporium are on a genie time-share program so there may be a slight delay in wish fulfillment. (◕‿◕)

      by Mopshell on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 08:27:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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