What is morality ?
As late Christopher Hitchens postulated,
“You can be an atheist and you can be a sadomasochist. You can be an atheist and a psychopath. You can be an atheist and be fascist. To be a communist, you practically have to be an atheist. It doesn’t commit you to anything. But it certainly does not commit you to the absurd belief that if you don’t have a supernatural belief you have no morals.”
It is often implicated by theologians that religion, is the foundation of human morality and it arose from religious roots. The common substantiation for such a claim originates, beginning from undermining of the innate moral instincts of our human self. ‘Morality has to come from a higher source ‘- a common straw man put forth by religious spokesmen might seem within the logical ‘bubble’ of an average person. It is when we look closer, the truth will begin to unfold.
This response is going to be divided into two parts,
The first one will be disproving the higher source argument. The second part is going to be about the moral background of human beings as a species.
Let’s start with the straw man. By stating that morality has to come from a higher source, religion nails down morality in an objective framework. It is this claim of morality being objective, is what makes this argument look rather appealing at the first glance.
If a God determines the good and the bad and decides what morality is; religion claims that to be objective morality and it can not change. Even if it is from God, the reason why we ought to do that which is good is a matter of subjective analysis. God is considered as a non fallible being by religion, but even after that religious people don’t always ought to do that which is commanded upon them by this God and that is exactly my point. A command can simply not be true…infact a command is neither true nor false. We ought not to do that which is bad, if we ‘ought’ to do something then it becomes a completely subjective position. It can differ from religion to religion and geography to geography.
Numerous religions frequently contradict each other on ethical and moral views. Since the choice of either ought or ought not is arbitrary, morality can never be objective in a religious view point. So the claim that morality has to come from a higher source is completely wrong because of the uncertainty within us. Religion foisted its draconian principles and rules over human intelligentsia with this false objective nature of morality.
Where does our morality comes from ?
It might not appeal to the religious readers at first if I say morality can never be objective and it doesn’t come from a single source, irrespective of being atheistic or theistic. We have an innate sense of morality. It is genetic as well as an evolutionary trait of human beings. We are social beings, evolved and survived in groups….of course stereotypes are a thing but differences comes in many ways and still the genetic make up remains the same. The gene pool that makes us human, remains the same. It is inarguably evident that the survival of our species didn’t happen out of dumb luck, but it was rather the result of our social behaviour.
All animals possess a sense of morality to a certain limit….this comes from the compassion to its own species even though limited by nature, still cannot be ignored completely.
What makes us moral then ?
Morality is subjective due to the diversity among us. Nothing makes us moral or immoral. Its just amoral. Morality and immorality is determined and quantified by subjective analysis.
What makes us different ? Well I have an answer,
It is that ability of a person to choose veganism even after being an omnivore by genetics and the ability that makes us overcome our natural instincts is what makes us different.
When I came across the ‘golden rule’, it made sense at first glance and it will, for a reasonably good person. When we start to look into the sadomasochistic nature of individuals, the statement doesn’t hold up.
Even atheists claims that we are moral beings. We have an innate sense of morality which helped our species survive by maintaining balance and I agree to that. But if we have to survive as a species then wouldn’t that mean the expulsion of antisocial behaviour???? What if eliminating some is the only way to ensure the survival of our species and thus reducing resource consumption ? From which view point is the moral basis defined ? It cannot be from a subjective source like us. Well for me the answer is, I don’t know. I ought to do that which is good for all of us and “all” includes everyone irrespective of what of who they are.
I’ve been troubled with this self conflicting idea for a long time. From my viewpoint it’s not a matter of perspectives and yet again ‘my view point’ is subjective. I hope that this doesn’t go unanswered in my lifetime. I am in disagreement with the word ‘morals’ as the word itself has a non-objective meaning to it.
Why should an atheist follow ‘morals’ ?
It is simply that I choose to accept the concept of morality due to aspects like compassion, kindness, sincerity etc
It is this subjective persona that I prefer over the latter since my experiences have led me into believing that ‘good moral philosophy’ rewards me better than having a bad immoral one.
Even then, it remains a debatable topic that will have teams on either sides.
– The realist