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Developing systems of morality, outside of religious influence.
#1
Developing systems of morality, outside of religious influence.
Wasn’t sure if this should go here or in the philosophy section, but here goes.

Basically, one of the biggest things I’ve had trouble with since leaving Christianity is justifying my actions.  Before, when I needed to make an ethical decision, I would rely on the bible to tell me what to do.  Or, if that failed, I’d ask someone more educated in the bible than me, and they’d tell me the “best” interpretation.

Now, I’m aware that the bible isn’t any better of an ethical system than anything else humans have come up with - probably worse, in a number of ways, seeing as it allows all kinds of things I would, at least in a gut response, see as atrocities.  However, at least from the point of view of the people inside of their religion, they have a rock solid starting point.

I guess I’ve got my “shoulds” mixed up nowadays.  I come to an argument on whether or not someone should do something or not do something(abortion, animal rights, lgbtq rights, racism, etc), and it seems like the best I have to contribute is “I personally like/don’t like that idea”.  I’m aware that there are a number of different moral systems that aren’t necessarily religious(hedonism, utilitarianism, Kant’s theory, etc.), but I don’t feel at all qualified to just pick one arbitrarily and run with it.  Would it ultimately be an emotion-based decision, going with the one that just makes me feel better about myself?

So anyways, for a TL;DR: how do each of you, personally, approach ethics?  Do you adopt a certain system, or do you use a more cobbled together way of approaching things?  How does one feel justified in applying their belief system to the world, if there’s no divine objectivity backing them up?
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#2
RE: Developing systems of morality, outside of religious influence.
Personally, I try to do what is best for other people and animals. I don't use any particular system rigidly, I think through each situation on its own merits. I draw up a pro and con list, often mentally if it's not a huge decision, and weigh it up. There's no formula, not even one I could prescribe for myself.

I aim for the situation where I can justify my actions, by explaining my thought processes, at least to myself. Of course, not everyone will agree with my conclusions. They may have weighed things differently. But my conscience tells me whether I've made the most effort I can to be moral.

For rules of thumb, I don't do anything to other people/animals that I wouldn't want them to do to me; and if I can help, then I do.

There is no objective system, as you're now learning. Anyone can just claim their particular system is "the right one", but that's completely pointless. If we can all at least agree that we want to look after each other, then that's a great starting point.

(I have a video where I go into more detail, if you're interested.)
Feel free to send me a private message.
Please visit my website here! It's got lots of information about atheism/theism and support for new atheists.

Index of useful threads and discussions
Index of my best videos
Quickstart guide to the forum
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#3
RE: Developing systems of morality, outside of religious influence.
(March 8, 2018 at 10:01 am)Kookaburra Wrote:


I'm afraid this might be a trap but here goes anyway.



Quote:So anyways, for a TL;DR: how do each of you, personally, approach ethics?

I think the goal of the best possible well-being for everyone and avoidance of the worst possible misery of everyone, is good.


Quote:How does one feel justified in applying their belief system to the world, if there’s no divine objectivity backing them up?

Who else is there to apply it?  I feel justified because I am the only one who can do it.
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#4
RE: Developing systems of morality, outside of religious influence.
I feel like I'm repeating Rob.

I have no specific system. I'd say that most of my ethics would come from the society I live in (most of them implanted in my youth) and my personal position to do the least amount of harm, to myself and others.

Being an addict (sober for now) I've certainly harmed myself and others. So I haven't always succeeded. That does not mean that I can't try each day. 

When my ethics conflict with others is when it can get tricky. My rights/ethics often need to stop where their nose starts.
The things that pass for knowledge I can't understand



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#5
RE: Developing systems of morality, outside of religious influence.
(March 8, 2018 at 10:19 am)rskovride Wrote:
(March 8, 2018 at 10:01 am)Kookaburra Wrote:


I'm afraid this might be a trap but here goes anyway.



Quote:So anyways, for a TL;DR: how do each of you, personally, approach ethics?

I think the goal of the best possible well-being for everyone and avoidance of the worst possible misery of everyone, is good.


Quote:How does one feel justified in applying their belief system to the world, if there’s no divine objectivity backing them up?

Who else is there to apply it?  I feel justified because I am the only one who can do it.
Not a trap, I promise. Wink  I’m genuinely interested in gaining knowledge on the topic.

Why is avoidance of misery “good”?  I mean, on the surface, yeah, I get it of course.  And I have a similar way of thinking about things on a day to day basis - personally, I would prefer that no sentient being living on the same planet with me has to suffer.  At least not needlessly.  But on a deeper level, what makes an action good vs bad, if anything?  Is it someone’s personal feelings on the subject?

(March 8, 2018 at 10:13 am)robvalue Wrote: Personally, I try to do what is best for other people and animals. I don't use any particular system rigidly, I think through each situation on its own merits. I draw up a pro and con list, often mentally if it's not a huge decision, and weigh it up. There's no formula, not even one I could prescribe for myself.

I aim for the situation where I can justify my actions, by explaining my thought processes, at least to myself. Of course, not everyone will agree with my conclusions. They may have weighed things differently. But my conscience tells me whether I've made the most effort I can to be moral.

For rules of thumb, I don't do anything to other people/animals that I wouldn't want them to do to me; and if I can help, then I do.

There is no objective system, as you're now learning. Anyone can just claim their particular system is "the right one", but that's completely pointless. If we can all at least agree that we want to look after each other, then that's a great starting point.

(I have a video where I go into more detail, if you're interested.)

Bold mine - yeah sure!  Hit me up.
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#6
RE: Developing systems of morality, outside of religious influence.
I lean pretty close to Sam Harris' idea of morality being concerned with human well-being - actions and policies that promote well-being are good, and those that hinder it are bad. Well-being is hard to describe, but we can still make (pretty much) objective judgments when comparing two different things. Physical health is also very hard to define, but there is an objective difference between eating an apple and drinking battery acid when it comes to its effect on your physical health. Moral systems are subjective - that's just a fact of the world - we see innumerable moral systems across time, cultures, and individuals. But that doesn't mean each system is equally valid or helpful or good. The problem is there's nothing to point to as the "true" good, because we have no way of assessing morality outside of human perception. And if someone from another moral system simply doesn't value the same things as you, just claiming 'you're wrong, I'm right, look at my book' isn't going to change their mind.

If a moral system doesn't place human well-being at its center (for example, if it claims the most important thing to do in life is follow God's rules), then I really don't think it has any use. It might get some things right, but its foundation is misplaced, in my opinion.
In every country and every age, the priest had been hostile to Liberty.
- Thomas Jefferson
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#7
RE: Developing systems of morality, outside of religious influence.
My central moral rules are to Think and to Care.

That means you have a duty to know the likely consequences of your actions and to care about how those actions affect others. It means you are morally bound to learn how the world works and to help those in need.

Why is suffering bad? Do you really need to ask that question? Do *you* like suffering? Well, neither does anyone else.

Generally speaking, the golden rule and its variants are a good starting point for figuring out how to act.

Now, I don't consider morality to be 'objective'. I don't expect that there will ever be a scientific measure of morality or that people will ever completely agree about moral questions. But if you actively think and care about your actions and their effects on others, you are, in my opinion, 90% of the way to being a good person. The other 10% comes from practice and more learning and more caring.
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#8
RE: Developing systems of morality, outside of religious influence.
Kookaburra Wrote: Why is avoidance of misery “good”?  I mean, on the surface, yeah, I get it of course.  And I have a similar way of thinking about things on a day to day basis - personally, I would prefer that no sentient being living on the same planet with me has to suffer.  At least not needlessly.  But on a deeper level, what makes an action good vs bad, if anything?  Is it someone’s personal feelings on the subject?
Subjectively, avoiding misery is good because that is what corresponds to reality as I perceive it though my senses. 
Objectively?  Well, hopefully someone else can chime in on this, I don't hold to any firm ethical stances, yet...  Work in progress here, still learning.
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#9
RE: Developing systems of morality, outside of religious influence.
I think we can make objective judgments within a system, as informed by the system's values, but comparing across systems is where it gets hairy since there's no universal, celestial rubric that we can point to that can inform our comparisons. All we can do is use the rules of our own system.
In every country and every age, the priest had been hostile to Liberty.
- Thomas Jefferson
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#10
RE: Developing systems of morality, outside of religious influence.
I don't want to assume too much about you, but I would wager that you never followed what the bible told you to do anyway. Almost all religious people follow what they want the book to say, or what other people tell them it says. They do what they want to do anyway, then find ways that the book supports it. They then make rationalisations as to why they ignore the rest. I know the bible well, and it's absolutely horrifying. If you followed it, you'd be dead or in jail very quickly.

So upon leaving religion, most people find that they were acting in a "nice" way (assuming they were before) because it's how they naturally want to act, not because they needed their religion to tell them so. The not so nice ones use their religion as a shield to support their bigotry without having to explain it. Life isn't the game religion makes it out to be, scoring Jesus points. The inmates are running the asylum, and they can either make life nice for each other, or make everything unpleasant. I'd prefer the former.

Okay, here's my vid! If you're ever not sure what to do in a situation, do what you've done here. Ask for advice! You'll maybe get some new information or perspectives which will help you.



Feel free to send me a private message.
Please visit my website here! It's got lots of information about atheism/theism and support for new atheists.

Index of useful threads and discussions
Index of my best videos
Quickstart guide to the forum
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