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Atheism, Moral Relativism, and Hypocrisy


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I have a quick question that I think may lead to an interesting discussion. As the title sayd, it is the connection between atheism, moral relativism and hypocrisy.

 

First, I wonder with it is possible to be morally hypocritical as a moral relativist. I would argue it is not since morality is relative, a person need only have an explanation for their personal contradiction and internally they are again morally sound.

 

Second, I wonder what effect atheism has on moral relativism and individual moral course corrections.

 

I realize that the first most obvious discussion would lead toward humanism, which is a secular moral philosophy. But I do wonder how much sway Humanism actually has anymore with atheists in general. I have seen a drift in atheism away from Humanism and towards Environmentalism (as a philosophy of Environmental needs superseding Humanity's needs).

 

So I guess the set of questions would be:

 

1) As an atheist do you see a higher moral authority than yourself?

 

2) If no, how do you regulate your own moral compass? Also, do you think it is possible for you to be hypocritical?

 

3) Do you lean towards Humanism or Environmentalism? Do you have examples for when you would choose Humanist goals and when you would choose the environment?

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First, I wonder with it is possible to be morally hypocritical as a moral relativist. I would argue it is not since morality is relative, a person need only have an explanation for their personal contradiction and internally they are again morally sound.

 

I don't understand this part. What does morality being relative have to do with hypocrisy? If there's an inconsistency, that's hypocrisy. If there isn't, there isn't. What difference would it make whether or not one believes there is an objective external truth in morality?

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I don't understand this part. What does morality being relative have to do with hypocrisy? If there's an inconsistency, that's hypocrisy. If there isn't, there isn't. What difference would it make whether or not one believes there is an objective external truth in morality?

 

 

My point is that there never has to be an inconsistency when you are defining the rules yourself. If you are setting the moral rules then saying others should behave one way while you behave another is not hypocritical if you simply believe it's morally correct for others to behave differently than you do.

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Why can't I choose to believe in an absolute morality that makes it morally correct for me to behave one way and others to behave another way?

 

I'm sure you can. But can you name one instance where that is the case? It's one of the underlying reasons why I asked the question, actually. I can't think of a hard communal moral code that doesn't ask that all people operate within the same guidelines.

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Atheism has nothing to do with moral relativism. Nor does theism. Atheism is the SAME THING theism is; an response to a metaphysical proposition. Neither offer any more or any less. Theism merely is the belief that one or more deities exist whereas atheism is not theism.

 

Neither offer hope, freedom, love, morality, etc. Neither offer a framework for belief; They only offer a metaphysical proposition that informs a framework that the (a)theist may adopt. Everything else are just add-ons that depend on the person and further clarification of their belief. You can't tell anything about a theist's beliefs, other than that they believe in one or more deities, by only knowing that they are a theist. Similarly, you can't know anything about what an atheist believes, other than that they do not believe that one or more deities exist, by knowing only that they are an atheist. To suggest otherwise is intellectually dishonest.

 

Since morality is merely how we ought to behave, it isn't hard to come up with an absolute situational morality. I think the problem that some people have with this concept is that they think of morality as a set of rules(like the 10 commandments) when it is really more like a process. We may not be able to derive an ought from an is, but we can derive an "ought, if" from an "is". It is merely a matter of observing the conditions and determining the necessary course to meet the desired outcome. We are social animal, and as such, benefit from peace(at the least within our tribe). If we want an effective society, we ought foster peace. People do respect others more when they are given respect. If you want to be respected, you ought respect others. The process of morality is simply determining what you ought to do to reach the desired outcome while minimizing suffering.

 

But can you name one instance where that is the case?

Most people will tell you lying is immoral, yet those same people say it would have been immoral to give up Jews to the Nazis even though lying could have saved them.

Edited by ydoaPs
Consecutive posts merged.
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I'm sure you can. But can you name one instance where that is the case? It's one of the underlying reasons why I asked the question, actually. I can't think of a hard communal moral code that doesn't ask that all people operate within the same guidelines.

 

I think you should read the Old Testament again. Israelites and outsiders, men and women, levites and others, masters and slaves, rulers and subjects. Different rules.

 

But again, why limit to shared "communal" moral codes? Everyone ultimately decides for themselves, so there really isn't any such thing as a morality that isn't self-determined. It's just copied or not. Moral relativism is not deciding for yourself (which everybody does), but in not thinking that your own decision is objectively, externally correct. And you can certainly think you're objectively correct without having anyone else who feels similar to you.

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I have a quick question that I think may lead to an interesting discussion. As the title sayd, it is the connection between atheism, moral relativism and hypocrisy.

 

I think that there is a strong connection between being atheist and moral relativism. I also think there is a strong connection between being human and hypocrisy, and both human atheists and human theists are human. I think a rock is also atheistic and it definitely isn't hypocritical, but then again it doesn't have morality either.

 

First, I wonder with it is possible to be morally hypocritical as a moral relativist. I would argue it is not since morality is relative, a person need only have an explanation for their personal contradiction and internally they are again morally sound.

 

Yes. A person who's actions do not align with their rules is a hypocrite, even if they change their rules after the fact. Generally the catch is they want others to follow the rule even if they themselves do not -- this is also hypocrisy.

 

I think that moral relativism greatly diminishes hypocrisy; for example moral relativists have largely abandoned the idea that homosexuality is evil, whereas people with unchanging morals based on the bible think gay people should be stoned to death, but don't do so and make up various reasons why.

 

Second, I wonder what effect atheism has on moral relativism and individual moral course corrections.

 

Atheists are forced to take responsibility for their own morals, rather than being able to just mindlessly follow what someone else said and claim that they have divine guidance.

 

1) As an atheist do you see a higher moral authority than yourself?

 

Yes and no. Society sets the moral tone, and I try to work more or less within the morality of society, in addition to my own morality. But I reserve the right to consider them wrong.

 

2) If no, how do you regulate your own moral compass? Also, do you think it is possible for you to be hypocritical?

 

Yes, anytime I apply a different, less restrictive rule to myself than to others, that is hypocritical. My morality is based on maximizing human well-being. That's poorly defined, but applicable to all moral problems.

 

3) Do you lean towards Humanism or Environmentalism? Do you have examples for when you would choose Humanist goals and when you would choose the environment?

 

The environment is necessary for human well-being, even if preserving it inconveniences a few humans a little. However I have no problem sustainably exploiting the environment. It is important to note that some things don't have a monetary value but are still appreciated.

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To be honest, I don't really understand the questions in the OP but I think I can answer part of one of them.

"how do you regulate your own moral compass?"

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Now, I realise that's also part of lots of religions (except where they ignore it) but it also seems to me to be simple self interest. If I'm not nice to others, they probably won't be nice to me.

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I noticed that the premises of the questions were somewhat vague. It also seem to be implying that a lack of moral authority can lead to hypocrisy, and lack of morals. Therefore, I wanted to point out that the questions could really be applied to all groups, including theists.

 

1) As an atheist or theist do you see a higher moral authority than yourself?

An atheist and theist would both answer yes, because answering no obviously sets one up to look like he/she has an extremely inflated ego. The question does not really dive deeper than that, but I'll indulge.

 

A theist would be more likely to respond that his/her moral authority is God, now God can mean a lot of different things to different people, so that can also serve as a vague term.

 

An atheist might imply that society is his/her moral authority.

 

I would imagine, that society and God serve the same purpose to many atheists and theists.

 

2) If no, how do you regulate your own moral compass? Also, do you think it is possible for you to be hypocritical?

One regulates his/her moral compass through signals that are sent through the brain. This moral compass can be effected though by inherited traits (such as sociopaths or psychopaths) but it can also be effected by outside stimuli as well.

 

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125304448

 

These traits were not obtained by humanity through some divine intellect. It is evolution at it's finest. Essentially societies that had a strong moral fabric were more likely to help each other, work together, and therefore grow. Societies that had a weak or no moral fabric were more likely to cause harm to each other, not work together, and therefore not grow.

 

Everyone regardless of what/who their moral authority has the possibility of being hypocritical, this is because we are always balancing our self needs/wants/feelings with what is morally right, either according to God or society.

 

3) Do you lean towards Humanism or Environmentalism? Do you have examples for when you would choose Humanist goals and when you would choose the environment?

Humanist goals should correspond with environmentalist goals, this is because humans are of course part of the environment. I don't think they need to be set up as competing concepts.

Edited by toastywombel
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