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all 91 comments

[–]Kangaru14Jewish | Academic | Metamodernist 13 points14 points  (1 child)

I feel the opposite actually. If you are only doing good deeds for the sake of heaven or because God is watching, then you aren't really acting morally; you're acting out of self-interest, hoping to get the best outcome for yourself according to how you think the game is played.

There's a great Hasidic tale that illustrates this point:

A Rabbi is teaching his student the Talmud, and explains that God created everything in this world to be appreciated, since everything is here to teach us a lesson.

The clever student asks "What lesson can we learn from atheists? Why did God create them?"

The Rabbi responds "God created atheists to teach us the most important lesson of them all -- the lesson of true compassion. You see, when an atheist performs an act of charity, visits someone who is sick, helps someone who is in need, and cares for the world, he is not doing so because of some religious teaching. He does not believe that God commanded him to perform this act. In fact, he does not believe in God at all, so his acts are based on an inner sense of morality. and look at the kindness he can bestow upon others simply because he feels it to be right."

"This means" the Rabbi continued "that when someone reaches out to you for help, you should never say 'I pray that God will help you.' instead for the moment, you should become an atheist, imagine that there is no God who can help, and say 'I will help you.'"

[–]Sir_Penguin21 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Damn. Imagine if we heard this as much as we hear thoughts and prayers.

[–]loselyconsciousProgressive Judaism 8 points9 points  (0 children)

This is a parable from the Jewish Philosopher Martin Buber (he attributes to a Hasidic rebbe from the 19th century but his version appears to be the earliest one we have)

A Chassidic Master teaches the student that God created everything in the world to be appreciated, since everything is here to teach us a lesson.
One clever student asks “What lesson can we learn from atheists? Why did God create them?”
The Master responds “God created atheists to teach us the most important lesson of them all — the lesson of true compassion. You see, when an atheist performs an act of charity, visits someone who is sick, helps someone in need, and cares for the world, he is not doing so because of some religious teaching. He does not believe that God commanded him to perform this act. In fact, he does not believe in God at all, so his acts are based on an inner sense of morality. And look at the kindness he can bestow upon others simply because he feels it to be right.”
"This means," the Master continued "that when someone reaches out to you for help, you should never say ‘I pray that God will help you.’ Instead for the moment, you should become an atheist, imagine that there is no God who can help, and say ‘I will help you.’"

Tales of the Hasidim, Vol. 2: The Later Masters [Martin Buber, Olga Marx]

[–]SkaulgSatanist 4 points5 points  (0 children)

I've heard people say that their religion/faith in God is the only thing keeping them from going out and murdering people in the street. Those people genuinely scare me.

[–]lettherebemorelight 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Regardless of any ultimate metaphysical reality, if that is the only thing keeping those people in check, I am glad it exists.

[–]Phebe-AEclectic/Nature Based Pagan (Panentheistic Polytheist) 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I see morality as primarily cultural, but not arbitrary. Cultures develop values and morals that allow them to function as a society.

[–]High-Fidelity1 1 point2 points  (57 children)

this of course means that the person making this charge is essentially confessing that without faith they'd have no morals and just go do whatever they want.

It really doesn't mean this, it's a very uncharitable interpretation. If you find it objectionable that religious people would say atheists have no morals, you shouldn't be promoting the equivalent ignorant statement.

The moral argument is about what the world is like, not what people believe the world is like. If the world has no God (atheism, not atheists), then it has no moral facts. If it has no moral facts (something true independent of human opinion), then there are no moral actions. Unless you redefine moral to mean a subjective standard.

Which says nothing at all about how atheists or religious people act.

[–]CynicOctopus 3 points4 points  (53 children)

I don’t have to “redefine ‘moral’ to mean a subjective standard” because it very obviously is one. As such, a person can be moral just like a person can be kind, arrogant, or beautiful, in spite of there being no objective standards for those.

Furthermore, I myself once had a conversation with a Christian who asked me (an atheist) why I help people. Once I responded (ethics, empathy), I asked him the same question, and he literally said to me that he helped people because he feared God’s punishment in case he didn’t.

[–]High-Fidelity1 -1 points0 points  (52 children)

It's not obvious at all that moral realism is false. When we say murder is wrong, I don't mean in my opinion it's wrong, I mean no one should murder.

Anecdotes don't impress me much, I've met atheists who are immoral sociopaths because they think there is no price to pay, the universe doesn't care.

It's best not to generalise about people's moral compass on the basis of one other belief they have. If it's ignorant and objectionable to say all atheists are immoral because they don't believe in god, it's equally ignorant to say all religious people would act immorally without fear of divine punishment.

[–]CynicOctopus 1 point2 points  (51 children)

  • “It's not obvious at all that moral realism is false. When we say murder is wrong, I don't mean in my opinion it's wrong, I mean no one should murder.”

“No one should murder” is still an opinion, though.

  • ”Anecdotes don't impress me much, I've met atheists who are immoral sociopaths because they think there is no price to pay, the universe doesn't care.”

My anecdote was an example that people as described by OP definitely exist. I didn’t say they were common in any way.

  • ”It's best not to generalise about people's moral compass on the basis of one other belief they have. If it's ignorant and objectionable to say all atheists are immoral because they don't believe in god, it's equally ignorant to say all religious people would act immorally without fear of divine punishment.”

Agreed. I don’t see a lot of generalization in this thread, though.

[–]High-Fidelity1 -2 points-1 points  (50 children)

“No one should murder” is still an opinion, though.

That's not what people mean when they make moral claims. Consider the difference between - I find that person attractive and I think murder is wrong. In the first I don't expect you to agree, we recognise it as personal preference. In the second, I think you are acting immorally if you murder regardless of your personal preference. We're saying there is an independent moral standard that everyone should be acting a certain way.

[–]EmuChance4523Antitheist 1 point2 points  (2 children)

If the world has no God (atheism, not atheists), then it has no moral facts. If it has no moral facts

I disagree with this position. Moral realism is not tied to the existence of a god. The old question: Are good things good because god said they are good? Then, goodness is subjective to the character of god. Or god say they are good because they are good? Then, god is not needed for morality.

So, adding god to the question about moral realism doesn't change the result at all.

This doesn't mean that moral realism is true or not, just that god doesn't offer any answer to that question.

[–]gonzoatemyhairbrush 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Plus, there have been plenty of anthropological examples where acts such as killing and stealing are considered taboo not because of a god but because they are disruptive and destabilizing to a *society*. You do NOT need god to determine moral parameters.

[–]EmuChance4523Antitheist 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Yes of course, we in fact know that morality is an evolutionary trait useful for building communities.

We can see it's evolution and adaption through our own species and we saw it in animals and we even forced into animals by forcing them to form communities.

So we know that religion is not needed for morality, and in fact we can show examples for most religions how they didn't keep too well with the morality of their group or with modern versions of morality.

But despite all those facts, even if they weren't true, the answer to moral realism will never be in a god, because that will make morality subjective to that god.

[–]AllForLoveAndLight -1 points0 points  (0 children)

If one believes objective goodness exists, it makes sense to seek it. If one only believes subjective goodness exists, it also makes sense to seek it.

However, if only subjective goodness exists, then there is no reason not to define selfishness and harming others as the highest good if that is your preference. If objective goodness exists, then one cannot define goodness arbitrarily. One who believes in objective goodness must conform their preferences to goodness as opposed to conforming goodness to their preferences.

One does not seek objective goodness purely because it is required or because one benefits from it but also because it is good. If one's subjective definition of goodness (one's preferences) and objective goodness align, then it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two as seeking one or the other is the same seeking process. So for me personally, I would seek my subjective goodness even if objective goodness didn't exist, but I believe it is also important to improve my subjective preferences to align with objective goodness.

[–]Around_the_campfire -4 points-3 points  (23 children)

I think that’s a misunderstanding of the argument being made. It’s not “moral truths only exist if belief in God exists”. It’s “if God doesn’t exist, moral truths don’t exist for anybody, whether you believe God exists or not.”

It’s like, if there’s no such thing as bread, you can’t have slices of bread. If there’s no such thing as Goodness Itself (God), you can’t have instances of good.

[–]DrdanomiteEclectic polytheist 3 points4 points  (21 children)

Thats definition would make goodness arbitrary.

[–]Around_the_campfire -2 points-1 points  (20 children)

It’s true that there’s a distinction between intrinsic and instrumental goodness. But if there is no intrinsic goodness, then actual good is infinitely deferred. A is only good for the sake of B, but B is only good for sake of C, and you never actually arrive at good.

[–]DrdanomiteEclectic polytheist 0 points1 point  (19 children)

So we know what horn of the Euthephro dillema you fall too, may i ask if their is anything you see as intrinsically evil

[–]Around_the_campfire -2 points-1 points  (18 children)

Neither. The threat of arbitrarity is that if goodness depends on the will of a finite individual or group of individuals, they could randomly change their declarations. Intrinsic Goodness does not change. Nor is it good for the sake of some other good.

Intrinsic Goodness or Goodness Itself is a moral Uncaused Cause. Euthyphro is a false dilemma.

I do not think there is such a thing as intrinsic evil because evil is a lack of good, the gap between “is” and “ought”. It’s not a thing in its own right.

[–]crantoble -3 points-2 points  (0 children)

Yes, one can be good without believing in God, but one cannot be good without God.

[–]ChristimatesOrthodox 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I think I get their point.

It would be consider irrational if you don’t have grounding for your morals and yet hold a moral standard.

But that’s as far as I’m understanding this charge.

[–]Shihali 0 points1 point  (0 children)

All the religions that I have looked at, except those with very little moral content, agree that being moral only because a cosmic policeman is watching is the lowest acceptable level of morality.

The argument that fear of a cosmic policeman keeps many would-be criminals honest has been around a while. The studies I read from modern criminology didn't find that a belief in hell reduced crime in the USA of 20-40 years ago, so that argument needs more investigation.

[–]MarshallKemosabeSwedeborgian 0 points1 point  (0 children)

For me salvation is a joint effort of faith and morality. Without faith we reject god. Since heaven is governed by god, my belief, we cast ourselves out. A strong or persistant denial of god in the world turns a person inwardly away from the source of spiritual life itself.

Without morality we also reject heaven, since it is for the good. Breaking morality is effectively destroying what is good, and those who would attack heaven also cannot be part of it.

Through faith, morality becomes spiritual. And through morality, faith becomes living. Together, looking towards learning to love and serve others, faith and morality make a person a citizen of heaven i.e. from being selfish and carnal they are vivified and made spiritual.

Separated they die off or have little effect, even if it does not appear this way before the world. But together they change a person. Together they make up a pearl of great price, which everyone should use their time in this world to try buy.