Tony wrote: OK, I see what you are saying, you are not arguing that the majority is what makes it moral, only legal. I get it. You have not addressed what makes something immoral however. What makes something worth changing in a culture? What grounds and makes right the move to abolish slavery? Just the republicans? (which is who did it by the way), or is it something more?
And, let me ask you this; If the majority of people decided that killing atheist, (a minority at this point), was justified, would it be morally right to use force, killing, war to overthrow the majority?
I think we’re all dancing around the question that really matters in this discussion, without directly addressing the possible answers and our individual reasons for choosing one answer over the others.
The question is: Where does our sense of morality come from?
(And the associated sub-questions of whether or not there are such things as “absolute” moral standards, how we know what those are, and so on….)
To intentionally oversimplify it for myself
, I’ll say that my sense of morality comes from my mother, and was confirmed in my early years by my father, my grandparents, my teachers in school, the books I used in school, my church, other significant ‘authority’ figures in my life, TV (Leave It to Beaver
, Father Knows Best
, Ozzie and Harriet
, etc.), and other such influences. That’s the easy part.
But where did they
get their senses of morality that they all passed on to me? I’ll assume from the same or similar sources as mine. And I’ll carry that on back to the very first human beings, however you determine who/what those people were. And when we get to that point, those people are then left with no
parents, grandparents, schools, churches, TV, or other influences on their morality. They’re the “first” ones.
I think there are then two major avenues of thought people take as to how those original senses of morality developed.
First, there’s the view that we were “designed” by a theistic God with a ‘built-in’ sense of morality engraved on our hearts, minds, and souls. We then ‘discover’ those moral standards through our interactions with each other as individuals and groups. Much of our social norms and our laws then develop from those ‘discoveries’, to deal with people who don’t abide by those standards or who don’t agree on what the standards are. But the standards themselves come directly from God, whether we realize or accept that or not. I think this is generally your view, from what you’ve said here.
Second, there’s the view that our sense of morality evolved gradually over time as a result of
our interactions with each other as individuals and groups, with those standards that contributed to the survival and well-being of our species prevailing. People who acted outside of those standards died off (or killed each other off), and, eventually, only the standards we now (virtually) universally accept have made it through to the present. I think this is the usual view of most atheists, from what they’ve expressed here and elsewhere.
(Remember, I’m oversimplifying
Either view allows for humanity having an obvious sense of right and wrong, good and bad, etc. long
before any standards were written down on any tablets of stone or into any ‘codes’. Either view allows for what we observe around us in the way of moral standards shared by human beings across the globe, throughout all cultures, with so few exceptions they “prove the rule”. Both views allow for a complete sense of morality without
regard to whether an individual believes in God or not (which, I think, pretty much trashes the frequent assertion by believers that atheists have no morals – what a stupid thing to say….)
So, what all that amounts to is this: We observe people acting in ways we consider to be moral or immoral, but we have major disagreements as to where that sense of morality comes from. I’ve read excellent support for both views. I’m not sure how/if we could ever “prove” one view over the other. And, other than as a subset argument for/against the existence of God, in terms of how we act and treat each other, I don’t see how it really matters where they come from in the first place!