What do people mean by "morality" when discussing atheism vs theism?

Now that’s quite a “self-goal”… :slight_smile:

Yes, not all atheists are precise copies of each other. And this fact is perfectly compatible with there being varieties, branches and subbranches of atheism. On the other hand, it is, um, much harder to make it compatible with your claim that “there are no varieties of atheism!”. :slight_smile:

So, once again you demand that people would just trust you, without giving us any reason, why that would be a good idea.

Two can play this game. :slight_smile:

How about “Because they are true.”? :slight_smile:

So, are you going to just trust me on that point, or are you going to rediscover that people are not perfectly trustworthy? :slight_smile:

That is, that people do not always know the truth, and are not certain to say the truth even when they do know it?

We are merely annonymous Internet users. It is a bad idea to treat any of us as if we were totally trustworthy.

Thus it is a bad idea to offer arguments which presuppose that one is trustworthy.

Unfortunately for you, just about everything you offer here fails unless you are known to be trustworthy.

For example:

That relies on you being trustworthy: that you would have recognised and acknowledged an argument, if there was one.

On the other hand, my argument was that Bentham went to Westminster school, which was Anglican, and thus it is very likely that his morals were affected by Anglicanism, which is a species of Christianity. As you can see, it does not rely on me being trustworthy.

Another example is this:

Consensus of just about every non-atheist and many atheists says that it is denial of God’s existence, connected with many related beliefs.

You testify otherwise.

So, let’s interrogate you further: do you also lack a belief that God does not exist?

Have you ever tested this your claim? Have you ever asked others to try to guess your opinion about various things?

Yet again. One more time. There are no varieties of atheism as regards morality. If you want to know what any given atheist’s position is on any moral matter, then ask him or her. I cannot make that any simpler.

And I am not asking you to prove that anything you believe is true. I just want you to give me the reasons why you believe it. ‘Because they are true’ is the level of debate I would expect in a schoolyard. If that’s all you have then no more need be said.

To suggest that utilitarianism is based a Christian concept (it patently isn’t) because Bentham went to an Anglican school is farcical. Again, if you have no arguments then no more need be said.

As regards to the definition of atheist, it’s a lack of belief in gods. If some atheists want to deny He exists then tell them from me that they have no proof of that. It’s a nonsensical position. So do I believe that God exists? No. Do I know (or claim) that He doesn’t? No. Please keep that in mind. No further correspondence will be entered into on that matter because all I will be doing is repeating what I have just written.

And what on earth is the claim you think I am making that you mention at the end of your post? I simply said that if you want to know an atheist’s position on any matter then you need to ask them. Is that a new concept for you to come to terms with? Asking people what they think?

Maybe you could try it with me. And I can give you reasons for my beliefs as well. ‘Because they are true’ won’t be one of them.

Yes, you mostly just keep repeating your position without a supporting argument.

Yes, that is just testimony.

Although, as we can see, testimony is supported by many tries to shame an opponent into trusting you:

They didn’t seem to work so far. :slight_smile:

I guess you have failed to notice that “There are no varieties of atheism as regards morality.” actually means “All atheists hold precisely the same beliefs concerning morality.”…? :slight_smile:

I wonder… Did you really fail to see what this “Because they are true.” is supposed to demonstrate (that you are not going to just accept my testimony, while demanding that I would accept yours), or are you just pretending…?

Thank you for your testimony. :slight_smile:

As we can see, in one case we have a verb “believe”, while in the other case we have verbs “know” and “claim”. Now, while an obvious effort to pretend that those verbs are equivallent has been made, it is obviously not so.

So, we can see that 1) you couldn’t bring yourself to say that you do not believe that God does not exist (when that was specifically what I asked about), 2) you did find it easy to say that you do not believe that God exists.

That leads to some conclusions: 1) you do hold a belief that God does not exist, 2) you know that this belief is unjustified and that you won’t be able to defend it, 3) you try to distract yourself (and, as a consequence, others) from those facts.

Yes, it won’t.

But, you see, you did not ask for reasons (in the sense of arguments) which support our beliefs. Your question, as worded (whatever your intention was), actually asked for reasons (in the sense of causes) why we end up holding them. And I find your claim that you would not say that you hold your beliefs “Because they are true” close to a funny “Freudian slip”. :slight_smile:

Well, if you do not hold them because they are true (or, at least, because you have an argument showing that they are likely to be true), are you holding them just because you find that convenient? :slight_smile:

You’re confusing the reasons for reaching a conclusion with the conclusion itself. If I ask you why you shouldn’t have sex before marriage and you say ‘Because it’s true that you shouldn’t’ then you are not telling me anything other than you think it shouldn’t be done. The obvious follow up question is then ‘Yeah, but what REASONS do you have for holding that position’.

I’ll be back when you give some to check them out.

Feel free to explain how I am confusing those two specific things. :slight_smile:

There is nothing wrong with such an explanation and there is nothing wrong with the follow up question.

In a hypothetical situation you are talking about, such explanation is very likely to be a try to get precisely that follow up question.

It is also likely to be a test for the opponent: if the opponent will get angry and call the explanation “childish” instead of actually asking the follow up question, he is not yet ready for the discussion.

As you might suspect, I think that you failed that test previously and are closer to passing it now.

Why would I do that?

They would seem to be very distant from the topic of this thread.

This thread concerns the problems atheists have (or are perceived to have) with morality as such, not some specific moral issues.

Now, if we would find out we need an example, that would be different.

X is true.
Because of A, B and C.

X is the conclusion. A, B and C are the reasons why it’s true. I hope that’s cleared that problem up.

As to why simply ‘X is true’ is unsatisfactory it’s because we actually need the A, B and C. Most people realise this. Children often don’t and will resort to ‘Cos it just is!’ as an argument. If you’re a father then you will recognise that immediately and no doubt we share the frustration that such a comment brings.

And I have asked you what reasons you may have for saying (for example) sex before marriage is wrong as an illustration of that which I have just said. ‘Because it’s wrong’ tells us nothing. It just prompts the slightly frustrated response: ‘Yeah…but WHY do you think it’s wrong?!’

And it’s a moral problem and the thread is about morality. Feel free to answer or not.

That does not show that I have confused “reasons” with “conclusion” for the simple reason that you did not refer to anything I said.

So, once again, you merely testify (in this case you testify that I have confused something). And, once again, that is worthless, for you have not been shown to be trustworthy.

So, you feel frustration. And…?

Is there anything you would be willing to do to stop feeling that way?

Like somehow modifying your approach here?

You implied that sex before marriage is wrong because it’s true. ‘Sex before marriage is wrong…because it is true’ is the conclusion one might reach when presented with some arguments either for or against that statement. It would run thus:

F: What do you think about the statement ‘sex before marriage is wrong’?
M: I think that it’s true.
F: Why? What are your reasons?
M: A, B and C.
F: And based on those reasons, what is your conclusion
M: Based on those reasons, my conclusion is that the statement ‘sex before marriage is wrong’ is true.

I think we were waiting for you to give us your versions of A, B and C. That is, the reasons why you think that ‘sex before marriage is wrong’ is a true statement.

So, you testify that I implied something. Once again - you have not been shown to be trustworthy, so I don’t care much about your testimony.

So, you are waiting. And…?

You seem to be talking as if the fact that you, a random stranger (and a rather unpleasant one), are waiting for me to answer your question (which is “offtopic”), and are frustrated, because I do not answer it, results in me having a duty to answer that question.

So, to get closer to the topic, let’s look at the common difficulties that atheists have with morality, and see how they play out here.

So, first, I have pointed out:

So, for example, can you explain how I can have an objective duty to answer your question in this case, when I deny such a duty?


So, let’s say that (per impossibile?) you somehow manage to show that I have such a duty. Next you have to show why I should care about it.

So, are you going to give your “A, B and C” in connection with those questions? :slight_smile:

I suggested some time back that if an answer to an arbitrarily selected moral question such as: ‘why shouldn’t you have sex before you are married’ was ‘Because it’s true’ then that would be the conclusion and not the reason. You then specifically said that the answer was entirely acceptable. In my opinion it is not. Hence my attempt to explain WHY it was a conclusion.

You also suggested that asking for the reasons why it was true was entirely within reason. So based on that I am reasonably asking you, as per your statement, what you think they are.

Congratulations! :slight_smile:

That seems to be one of the first arguments you made on this thread! And it would give a true conclusion if the premises were true!

Now, of course, the (hidden, but easy to see) premise is not true (for I did not answer “Because it is true.” to the question you are trying to propose; I claim the question is “offtopic” and thus refuse to answer it in this thread), and the conclusion is irrelevant (even if it was reasonable for you to ask, perhaps even to expect an answer, that still does not show that I have a duty to answer, nor that there is any reason for me to care about that duty).

But that is still a great improvement over just offering your own testimony as the only support for your proclaimed opinions.

By the way, that “Because it’s true.” was offered (as a hypothetical answer to a hypothetical - and badly worded - question) precisely to expose your double standard. For you want your testimony to be accepted automatically (without any supporting argument), but are not going to accept testimony of others without an argument.

And oh how strong was this your unwillingness to accept testimony of others! :slight_smile: It looks like you have spent whole 5 (five) posts demanding an argument! :slight_smile:

Oxford Dictionaries (online) has for the first definition of morality is:

a particular system of values and principles of conduct, especially one held by a specified person or society.

Whether you accept my views or not, they will be presented, if required, with reasons why I hold them. If your views conflict with mine then it seems eminently reasonable to ask for the reasons why you hold them. So if, for example, you hold to a position that sex outside marriage is wrong then I will ask you why.

There’s no requirement to reply. But if you don’t then we don’t have much we can really discuss.

You were previously claiming:

Well, I didn’t ask you what is your opinion about sex outside marriage. In fact, I have shown little interest in it (if any). And you told me it (that you think it is not wrong) anyway. Not that it would have been that hard to guess until now…

Now, of course, this fact might be hinting at a reason for you being an atheist. A true reason, not the one you would be willing to admit to yourself or others.

As a matter of fact, there are things we can discuss, which are not “offtopic”.

The thread is about true or perceived difficulties atheists have with morality. And I pointed out a couple.

First, the atheists find it hard to explain how morality, the correct classification of human actions (and the like) into good and evil, can possibly exist. I also pointed out that atheists who try to deal with this difficulty tend to replace morality with something somewhat similar but different, like its approximations (positive law, rules of etiquette, empathy etc.).

Second, the atheists find it hard to explain why morality has to be followed, especially when that is costly in some way (for example, when it leads to death).

It looks like you did not try to show your solutions to those difficulties. Feel free to try that now.

Yeah, I’m good for that.

So what is morality? The dictionary definition is ‘a particular system of values and principles of conduct’. I’m good with that. With the rider that one should believe that the system of values and principles would lead to outcomes that one would determine to be good.

I can’t see anyone having difficulty with that. Except that what we each term to be ‘good’ will vary. Someone may say we should restrict some type of behaviour and that would be good whilst someone else would say that greater freedom in pursuing that type of behaviour would be good. For example, should we restrict certain aspects of religious beliefs or allow greater freedom to express those aspects of belief in any way a person would prefer.

Now what I might class as good may well be different to what you class as good. Some things that I think are ok will be things that you say are not and vica versa. Therein lies the problem. And we solve that by giving our reasons for why we think the way we do about any particular moral principle and seeing how they stack up against each other.

Sound reasonable?

You need more than a dictionary here. Philosophers have discussed possible definitions (see https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/). That is one reason why this is a thread with a subject “What do people mean by ‘morality’ when discussing atheism vs theism?”.

And, as I have pointed out, in such case by “morality” people mean something that is a correct classification of human actions (and traits etc.) into good and evil.

And you can find no place for it:

If that is all there is, there can be no correct answer. So, for now you have no answer to the first difficulty.

And that leads to the second difficulty, which you ignored: if matters of morality are just a matter of personal taste, there is no reason to follow morality when that is costly. This “morality” is easily defeated by “Why should I care?” and “Or else what?”.


Comparing reasons makes sense if there is a correct answer. If the answer is a matter of taste, the value of reasoning is going to be limited, overshadowed by psychological manipulation, negotiation and “might makes right”.

As you say (and as I said) we determine morality by what we consider to be a good or bad outcome (‘evil’ has much stronger connotations). So if you consider.something to be bad and I don’t then it’s going to be difficult reaching a consensus.

And morality is NOT a matter of personal taste. Who told you that? It’s based - or should be based, not on our personal preferences but on reasoned arguments. Arguments that lead to what we consider to be good outcomes. And then we are back to trying to decide what is good.

And it’s a simple process. We each state that we should do this or should not do that in these particular circumstances because of A, B and C. And we try to reach agreement. If we can’t then you will have to live your life as best you see fit according to your moral principles and I must do the same according to mine. If there is then a conflict then what generally happens is that it may go to arbitration. Perhaps legal (in the case of ssm for example). Otherwise we simply agree to disagree.

Your correct in saying morality is what God says is good and what is bad. The definition only applies to Christians.
For an atheist their idea of what is right or wrong is based on their own personal preference. This means that there will be different atheists with different morals. Unlike Christians who all adhere to the same moral code the atheists will be divided when it comes to certain issues.
Take abortion for example. The church teaches that abortion is wrong and so every Christian should be in agreement. Atheists however are divided, some are for abortion and some are against.

The rejection of God is the only thing atheists agree on.

It is not what I said.

And right now my answers to the difficulties you have are irrelevant.

That obviously solves nothing.

If goodness of actions is determined by goodness of outcomes, then either the outcomes are objectively good and bad, or they are not.

If they are objectively good or bad, you end up having to explain how that can be, who (or what) decides which are good and which are bad. That’s the same first difficulty.

If they are not, everyone merely decides what outcomes he likes more. Then morality once again is a matter of taste.

In either case you still have the second difficulty (the one you are trying to ignore extra hard): can you explain why one should care about morality? Do you have an answer to “Why should I care?” and “Or else what?”?

You talk as if that was a good, moral thing to do. But can you actually afford such a claim?

So, let’s imagine that one day (presumably under Weimar Republic) you run into a group of SA “Brownshirts” who decide to solve some moral disagreement by just beating you up.

Can you explain why that is wrong, under your understanding of morality? You might find the outcome bad, but “Brownshirts” find it good.

And even if you can find some solution, it still seems to be toothless: “Brownshirts” can still answer “Why should I care?” and “Or else what?”. Do you have an answer to that?

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