Of Morality and Humanity

There is a myth relative to morality.

The myth relative to morality is that without God there is no morality.  The myth assumes the existence of God, then attaches the concept of morality to the concept of God. Thus, the case is asserted that morality not only proves the existence of God, but likewise that if there is no God, then there are no morals. Basically, the theory maintains that people would not know the difference between the concepts of right and wrong if God does not exist.

The first observation of note is that the concepts of right and wrong are relative to the individual. Many are the factors which play a part in the molding of each individual’s value system.  And I cannot overstress that each person’s value system is a making of their individuality and one’s own inner deliberation based upon one’s own experiences in life.  Depending upon the context of a person’s life, and depending upon one’s cultural conditioning, and quite frankly depending upon the values which the given individual adopts as their own, there are simply a variety of interpretations of and personal conclusions regarding that which constitutes right and wrong.

And oftentimes the one person’s right is the other person’s wrong; and vice versa.

Of such is morality and humanity.

One person thinks it’s wrong to shoot a sitting duck.  Another person says all game is fair to hunt.  Another person says it it wrong to kill the duck except for one’s own personal survival.  Yet another person says it is wrong to kill the duck except to put the duck out of an irreversible misery.

One person says it is wrong to refuse to take the pledge of allegiance to the flag of ones’ country.  Another says it is wrong to actually take the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Some say it is wrong to march off to war.  Some say it is wrong to march for peace.

Some say it is wrong for a couple to live together without being married.  Others say it is wrong for certain couples to get married.

On and on I could go.

Suffice it to say that personal perspective and the rules of social convention produce a variety of values and a corpus of conflicting notions as to that which constitutes right and that which constitutes wrong.  And each person tends to assume their values to be preferable to those of another.

Of such is morality and humanity.

For example, I myself believe that the values which are based upon the matter of the undue suffering of another are those which constitute the only natural concept of right and wrong.  I base my values upon what seems to me to be a natural aversion to one’s own personal discomfort of any degree, and an equally natural sensitivity to the suffering of others.  Hence, the moral compass by which I measure right and wrong relates to whether I cause or neglect the suffering of another being.

Now, inasmuch as I believe my values to be sound and certain, the fact is that not everyone interprets the concepts of right and wrong as I do.  Inasmuch as I am the only one who lives my personal experience, and who experiences my personal life, then who am I to judge those who opt for a standard differing from my own?  So all I know to do is to live my life the best I know how, and to leave everyone else to their own inner deliberations and subsequent deeds.

For therein seems to be the common denominator which ultimately unites us all as to the divisive topic of personal values. The fact is that most every person, regardless of background or upbringing, deliberates within themselves and subsequently decides for themselves as to their  values, and then acts accordingly.

Of such is morality and humanity.

Now, some might ask: “What about God?”.
To which I reply:  “What about God?”

God has nothing to do with morality, except in the mind of the one who chooses to incorporate a subjective concept of a deity into an ever transforming personal concept of morality. For everyone’s concept of morality is a work in progress and relative to each given circumstance, hence God is only relative to such when incorporated into the process of the inner deliberation of the individual believer.  To such a person of course their concept of their deity functions as a role in their own personal deliberation as to their specific values, which then in turn affects their given choices in life.

Ultimately then, the concept of right and wrong is relative in general, yet case specific to the given individual.  For when all factors are considered, and all conditions have been figured, each individual decides for themselves what constitutes right and wrong to their own way of thinking.  Then we all act accordingly.

Of such is morality and humanity.

Some might say: “Well then, that means everyone can do whatever they want to do.”
To which I respond:  “Well.  Yeah.”

The fact is that everyone can do whatever they want to do, and actually do so on a daily basis; the concept of God notwithstanding.  When it comes down to what the individual person decides to do, the concept of God will neither hinder nor engage in the exercise thereof.  Every person can do whatever they want; regardless of the web of subsequent consequences relative to any given deed. We as individuals are simply free to do whatever we want to do, and no concept of God affects such one way or the other at the moment of truth.

Of such is morality and humanity.

Some people who believe in the concept of God live peaceably with their fellow beings. Other people who believe in the concept of God kill without mercy.  Some people who believe in the concept of God would not so much as step on a bug on the sidewalk.  Other people who believe in the concept of God torture and authorize the torture of their fellow beings.

Some Atheists live peaceably with their fellow beings.  Some Atheists are disagreeable personalities.  Some Atheist kill.  Some Atheists do not kill.

Some people who believe in the concept of God are good people.  Some Atheists are good people.  Some people who believe in God are rude and greedy.  Some Atheists are rude and greedy.  Some people who believe in God exploit their fellow beings for personal gain. Some Atheists exploit their fellow beings for personal gain.

There are Christians who believe in shooting the other person before he has the chance to shoot you.  There are Atheists who turn the other cheek.

People choose the values by which they live each given moment of their lives.  Some people factor the concept of a deity into their given value system.  Other folk do not.

But every person is experiencing an ever transforming value system of their own individual choice.

Of such is morality and humanity.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas

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4 thoughts on “Of Morality and Humanity

  1. Dave, little children develop a sense of morality at a very early age. This is usually centered on the concept of “fairness” or “unfairness.” These children almost never have been given any religious instruction, yet they show a sense of morality. Where does this come from? Does God talk directly to young people? It must be a miracle!

    Most morality is just going along to get along and doesn’t require a god to enforce. Besides if we took God’s behavior as a moral code, well, the dude did kill over three million people plus every living land animal (the Great Flood) save Noah et. al. which had to have been millions upon millions more people and uncounted numbers of animals.

    So, is killing millions of people part of Christian morality? Does Yahweh not set a good example?

    Nice piece! And I was starting to believe there weren’t any thinkers left in Texas! ;o)

  2. Very good article here. This is a subject that always seems to come to the surface for us Humanists/atheists. I agree with your focus on subjectivity and relativism regarding morality; it’s just a fact of life some don’t want to accept. I especially like that you pointed out that the concept of God doesn’t really seem to make the difference in morality that Christians claim it does.

    • Thank you for the read and for the comments “Think Always” (I love your username by the way)

      Your comments brought to mind a Kurt Vonnegut quote. Do not recall it verbatim, but the gist is:

      “A humanist does the right thing because it is the right thing to do, not for fear of punishment or in search of reward” (loosely paraphrased, but still credited to good old KV himself)

      Thanks again, and have a great day

      Dave

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