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Atheist Morals

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We continually see reference to the idea that you can be moral without god in atheist blogs etc. I think this is just propaganda for the benefit of a religious audience. It seems to me that a more plausible position is that you aren’t “moral” even with your god!
Morals are like manners; conventions that make group living tolerable so increasing the reproductive success of the group and hence the genes the group shares. As such they are not absolute and are at best a local optimum (and possibly not even that since they at least on occasion seem to drift for no observable reason). In such a situation all the benefits of morality will be reaped by those appearing to be moral while playing the system (that is cheating). In a sense it is more important to not get caught than to actually obey the rules. This will result in the long run in every individual effectively playing the system.

I don’t intend to imply that every one is aware that they are playing the system, in fact I suspect that most believe otherwise. But this is like the politician or banker who believes they are honest, the rest of us can see that the emperor has no clothes. So we are moral (or rather strive to appear so) because we avoid the penalties the group apply to those not playing the game, not through some higher authority (a fiction to justify essential convenient rules) or because we believe in maximising the well being of our group and its members.

Of course if we consider religion to be an example of a noble lie, something invented by the “wise” to justify “good” behaviour to those unable to understand the philosophical foundations of virtue, we might have to concede that there are many in society who are virtuous because they believe that an easily offended god is watching. To be honest (or not as suits) I see very little evidence of behaviour inconsistent with people gaming the system whatever they say.

Having thought about it for some time I am reasonably convinced that I am not moral and if I appear so that is learned behaviour to maximise my benefit. As I tell my children: I do not tell you not to lie or that lying is bad or evil, but to not get caught in unimportant lies, because you will need your reputation for honesty when you need the help of a big lie.

So my conclusion is that the theists are right; atheists are not moral, but neither are they. It is just that the majority appear to be unaware of their real motivations. Like rich gargoyles with young attractive wives (I’m looking at you Rupert Murdoch, as well as many others) (and with the gender roles reversed for that matter) where one or both bleive they are together because of love (I could go on about love as a biological solution to an evolutionary optimisation problem, but won’t here).

Written by CaptainBlack

February 10, 2012 at 05:59

Posted in Blogroll

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