February 2007

I’m sure you have a name but I guess “I declare” will do, I suppose I “feel so moved”. I would like to ask a question of you if I may. Being an atheist means that you completely deny the existence of a higher power and the ideas that go along with a higher power. I have discussed many a time and have presented the point that to be an atheist you cannot have a moral code that depends upon the “good” and “evil” in the world. Unless you personally have made up one for no other reason than it was fun at the time.

To have a moral code based upon good and evil the atheist would have to believe in “sin” and its counterpart God. Therefore I do not see how anyone could truly be an atheist; it seems like an utopia that can never be reached. I hope my statements do not sound confusing i would just like to know your opinions on the subject since it seems to be one that baffles brilliant minds. =)

“I declare” (or just Declare) is fine — I prefer not to give out my name for a variety of boring reasons .

Your question is a good one. Let me begin my response by making a minor correction. I do not “deny the existence of a higher power.” The word “deny” tends to carry with it the implication that one knows something but refuses to acknowledge it (as in “denying the Holocaust”). I also shy away from the term “higher power” in this context because it is so broad (I’d say that “god” is a subset of “higher power”). Vocabulary issues aside, I do not say that there is no god because that would put me in the position of having to prove that there is no god and I can do no such thing. Rather, I say that I do not have sufficient evidence to believe in a god, and am an atheist because I have no religion (as the word literally means).

I agree that I don’t have a moral code based on the concepts of good and evil. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that most people don’t have a moral code of this type, regardless of their stated beliefs. The reason I say this is that most people have only a vague idea of how they define good and evil. For example, some people say that “good” is following the Ten Commandments, following the example of Jesus, or obeying God’s commands, but have concepts of good that are outside the Commandments (such as when killing is allowable), pick and choose what part of Jesus’ example to follow (by gathering possessions, for example), or can’t say what God’s commands are (some Old Testament things count and others don’t). Some people go so far as to just use their religion to justify their behavior or boast that they are on the moral high ground, when they are really just doing what they feel like doing. If people are morally honest and consistent, I don’t care if they are religious or not — but far too many people fall short of that goal.

Drat, I got off on a tangent, didn’t I? Sorry about that.

Getting back to the point, I have a moral code that is not based on the concepts of good and evil. To me, good and evil are descriptions of intent — they are the outcome of a moral code (or lack of one), not a basis for it. To me, “good” is honestly following a rigorous moral code. “Evil” is getting pleasure from not following such a code.

My moral code is derived from two rules: First, a system of beliefs must not contradict itself. And second, I must not condemn others for thinking in the same way as I do (this is pretty much the same as the golden rule). These rules may not sound like they have anything to do with morality, but they are really quite powerful. For example, believing that stealing is immoral but that stealing is okay if you can get away with it would violate the first rule. And it would violate to second rule to believe it’s morally justified to try and harm those who believe different than I do but not okay for them to try and harm me for the same reason.

After these two rules, my culture also plays a part in my moral code. However, because of rule #2, I realize that others have cultures different from mine so their morality may be different, and that’s okay. For example, it would be immoral for a person who followed to Bible not to keep the Sabbath holy (if the Ten Commandments is part of their stated morality), but it is not immoral for me to treat every day of the week the same. On the other hand, it would be immoral for me to tell my child that ghosts exist (because that goes against my beliefs), but those with different beliefs can do this without violating their moral code.

So, what is my moral code? It pretty much boils down to this (in no particular order):

1) Respect life.
2) Be honest.
3) Don’t harm others.
4) Don’t condemn those who aren’t causing harm.
5) Be a good example.
6) Spread joy.
7) Encourage morality in others.

I think that’s a pretty good code, whether you believe in a deity or not.

Posted on February 3, 2007 at 12:46 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: Uncategorized

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