September 2007

the moral atheist rights and responsibilities is as dogmatic as any religion. If you have made a choice to follow those things then good for you but you have no justification for presenting them as absolute rules or even as a consistent philosophy. such a list relies on absolutism but with no god all morals are relative. to take the classic example: if a man steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family is this wrong? according to your list it is because -your list implies – stealing is wrong independant of context and he’s broken one of the responsibilities. i would argue that in fact such an act to stop the suffering of his children was not only ethically acceptable but if he had the oppurtunity to take the bread and didn’t then his inaction would be the morally reprehensible act. Also there seems to be choices that not only ignore ethic’s relativity but just reflect your (and societies) prejudices. ‘be polite’ is an obvious example but also the ‘don’t cheat on your significant other’ – if there’s no god then theres nothing innately wrong with cheating except for the bonds of trust you betray. in that case what you mean is ‘don’t violate bonds of trust’ which you already sorta covered with don’t lie. again though this is all relative: what if a man is married with young children and the marriage is suffering due to the wife witholding the goods in the bedroom? an unhappy relationship would lead to an unhappy home which would be detrimental to the happiness of both the adults and the children. now what if he can get his jollies elsewhere and so keep harmony in the family with his wife in blissful ignorance not having to fend off unwelcome advances all the time? isnt it a compelling arguement that this is an ethically acceptable – even preferable – route? in this case it is only the getting caught cheating which is wrong please dont take this as an attack on atheism or moral atheism which is where my own theistic beliefs lie, but all dogma rankles with me. the site seems a commendable attempt to underline the stupidness of the idea atheism is undesirable because people can’t be moral without god. but perhaps what we should be underlining is the absurdity of the idea we should keep up a lie such as religion, merely for the purpose of social control.

You’re making some assumptions here. First, you are missing the point of the list, which is to compare religious and non-religious morality (much of which is the same). And second, you are assuming that the items on the list are literal absolutes, which those familiar with such lists of rules know is not the case (for example, almost nobody thinks that “Thou shall not kill” in the Ten Commandments means you must be a vegetarian).

I disagree that “be polite” reflects societal prejudice or ignores ethical relativity. I don’t know of any society in which it is okay not to be polite, and I don’t imply that you shouldn’t be polite in another culture’s context.

But where you really make what I would consider to be a gigantic misstep is in your discussion of not cheating on your significant other. You point out that this is largely covered by “don’t lie,” and I agree, but that doesn’t make it incorrect. As for your example of a man cheating on his wife because she is “withholding the goods in the bedroom” being okay because it leads to a happier marriage, that seems to me to be on incredibly shaky moral grounds (to say the least). To say that “only getting caught” is wrong makes no sense to me because you can’t make a moral decision not to get caught, and “but I tried not to get caught” is not, in anyone’s book, a good excuse for having an extramarital affair.

Similarly, if a woman were sleeping around because her husband was (ahem) insufficient in some way would you consider that moral? I assume so, but this is just the top of an incredibly slippery slope. It also ignores the fact that by “fooling around” you can involve your spouse in other unwanted issues (such as the potential for diseases and children) without their consent.

If a couple has marital problems, you need to work them out, even if it means agreeing to an open marriage or some such thing. You’re not going to convince me that extramarital affairs are done for the good of the family.

Posted on September 4, 2007 at 4:13 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Criticism

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