Can atheists be ethical?
Christian Apologist, Ken Ham thinks that for atheists, there really is no basis for their ethics, therefore they believe they can do whatever they want if they can get away with it. What is “right” or “wrong” to such people is all relative.
are subject to the same laws of our country (and other countries), and they have a sense of right and wrong. They often work with people who are religious and have ethical standards, as well as non-believers who are don’t; so they are exposed to all sorts of moral behavior. In addition, they often form their own moral standards based on what suits them. Besides, things (like robbery, lying, stealing, etc.,) can get you imprisoned; so it is practical and logical for an atheist to be ethical and work within the norms of social behavior. However you want to look at it, atheists, generally, are honest, hardworking people. Nevertheless, some Christians raise the question, “What is to prevent an atheist from murdering and stealing? After all, they have no fear of God and no absolute moral code.” The answer is simple: Atheists are capable of governing their own moral behavior and getting along in society the same as anyone else. refthinks that for atheists, answer is “Definitely Yes” atheists can be ethical. According to Matt, atheists are people who,
Ethical atheism: heavily involved and utilizes ethical thought and standards to navigate atheism or the humanism that is likely to follow such an ethical awareness. Ethical atheism strives to utilize the strong force of ethics and ethical challenge to address the many issues that not only arise in combating the fanatical promotion of harmful myths but ethical ways to positively navigate all of life’s real struggles or options to behave in interactions with others. God claims all totally lack a standard of meeting any warrant or justification in their burden of proof, thus the claim as offered debunks itself as any kind of viable claim. Would you be intellectually honest enough to want to know if your belief was completely false, and once knowing it was an unjustified belief, realize it lacks warrant and the qualities needed for belief-retention, as well as grasp the rationality that certain beliefs are epistemically unfounded which compels belief-relinquishment due to the beliefs insufficient supporting reason and evidence, realizing that belief. To me, belief in gods is intellectually flawed and dishonest compared to the evidence of the natural world being not only explainable on every level as only natural, but also there is not a shred of anything supernatural and every claim tested ever has time and again debunked such nonsense. If anything supernatural or paranormal was provable, the believers would have taken James Randi’s famous million-dollar challenge, or they would have gone and got their Nobel Prize in proving the supernatural or open up a 100% faith-based prayer and miracles hospital. Where the cure for anything and everything is guaranteed because “prayer and miracles works” and the only education was being a religious or spiritual leader. Prove it or it is not really worthy for true belief and if there was actual scientific proof it would silence us rationalists, atheists, and skeptics forever. However, nothing of the sort has ever happened. List of prizes for evidence of the paranormal or supernatural woo-woo go back to at least 1922 with Scientific American. But it did not stop there instead there has been many individuals and groups have offered similar monetary awards for proof of the paranormal or supernatural with some reaching over a million dollars yet as of February 2016, not one prizes have been claimed. Ref Therefore, belief in supernatural or paranormal are not realistic nor are they reasonable. And what’s even crazier is it’s nonsense and they act like it is us rationalists, atheists, and skeptics that have to disprove something they have never proved.
Despite the width and diversity of their philosophical views, secular ethicists generally share one or more principles:
- Human beings, through their ability to empathize, are capable of determining ethical grounds.
- The well-being of others is central to ethical decision-making
- Human beings, through logic and reason, are capable of deriving normative principles of behavior.
- This may lead to a behavior preferable to that propagated or condoned based on religious texts. Alternatively, this may lead to the advocacy of a system of moral principles that a broad group of people, both religious and non-religious, can agree upon.
- Human beings have the moral responsibility to ensure that societies and individuals act based on these ethical principles.
- Societies should, if at all possible, advance from a less ethical and just form to a more ethical and just form.
Many of these tenets are applied in the science of morality, the use of the scientific method to answer moral questions. Various thinkers have framed morality as questions of empirical truth to be explored in a scientific context. The science is related to ethical naturalism, a type of ethical realism.
In How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living, Rushworth Kidder identifies four general characteristics of an ethical code:
- 1. It is brief
- 2. It is usually not explanatory
- 3. Can be expressed in a number of forms (e.g. positive or negative, single words or a list of sentences)
- 4. Centers on moral values
Atheistic Humanist ethics?
Well, Humanists generally (whether they realize it or not tend to) endorse universal morality based on the commonality of human nature, and that knowledge of right and wrong is based on our best understanding of our individual and joint interests, rather than stemming from a transcendental or arbitrarily local source, therefore rejecting faith completely as a basis for action. The humanist ethics goal is a search for viable individual, social and political principles of conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility, ultimately eliminating human suffering. Ref
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is the world-wide umbrella organization for those adhering to the Humanist life stance.
- Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.
This meme above is meant merely as a joke for atheist, well kind of. However, I don’t think it’s that far off the mark. Because I do think critical thinkers and thinkers who are intellectually honest should follow something close to “The Ethics of Belief” or they are likely not honest thinkers.
“The Ethics of Belief” was published in 1877 by philosopher William Kingdon Clifford outlined the famous principle “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence.” Arguing that it was immoral to believe things for which one lacks evidence, in direct opposition to religious thinkers for whom “blind faith” (i.e. belief in things in spite of the lack of evidence for them) was seen as a virtue. Ref Ref
To me, it comes down to the question, would you be intellectually honest enough to want to know if your belief was completely false? And once knowing it was an unjustified belief, realize it lacks warrant and the qualities needed for belief-retention, as well as grasp the rationality that compels belief-relinquishment due to the beliefs insufficient supporting reason and evidence. The act of believing, just because one wants to believe, when everything contradicts the belief is intellectually unethical or deluded. Beliefs are directly connected to behavior, behavior is directly involved in ethics, and ethics requires involvement in social thinking which requires us to mature or discipline our beliefs.
Here is the “The Ethics of Belief”: http://www.uta.edu/philosophy/faculty/burgess-jackson/Clifford.pdf
Ps, someone asked why would a critical thinker follow another old book from 1877? Well the age of evidence or thinking is relevant if it is reasonable. Saying it’s age is old is not a refutation of its arguments.
Moreover, it could be said that for ethical atheism applied logically “to me” in general ethics must be equally applied or the concept of ethics has no ethical meaning to begin with. Ethical atheism could be seen as thinking that if the idea of god implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation against of human rights, dignity, and liberty. Therefore ethical atheism holds a necessarily requirement to disbelief in order to end such unethical thinking and to end a god only morality enslavement of mankind. Ethical atheism holds all to ethical standards therefor if god did exist, it would be necessary to abolish him so we could be freely utilize human rights, dignity, reason and justice. Ethical atheism promotes atheism because it is both the logical and the ethical position to take in a world where religious people fly planes into skyscrapers, blow themselves up on crowded busses, and do all sorts of horrible things in the name of an imaginary sky monster. As an atheist ethicist, I am not just an Atheist (disbelieving claims of gods), an Antitheist (seeing theism as harmful) and an Antireligionist (seeing religion as untrue and/or harmful). Also as an atheist ethicist I value and require reason and evidence to support beliefs or propositions as well as am against all pseudohistory, pseudoscience, and pseudomorality. Why are gods even concerned with belief, as if they truly wanted it so bad they would be real and being more than just mental projections of which they are now they would show themselves and we all would believe. Therefore we can rightly conclude with no evidence of them at all, that belief in god(s) is the thing people do when playing at reality is valued more than understanding the actual natural only nature of reality. 1
Using a universal declaration of ethical principles to build a better world?
“Universal ethics: there are several ethical standards that are considered to be self-evident, and seem to apply to all people throughout all of history, regardless of cultural, political, social, or economic context. The non-aggression principle, which prohibits aggression, or the initiation of force or violence against another person, is a universal ethical principle. Examples of aggression include murder, rape, kidnapping, assault, robbery, theft, and vandalism. On the other hand, the commission of any of such acts in response to aggression does not necessarily violate universal ethics. There are obvious reasons why universal ethics are beneficial to society. For example, if people were allowed to kill or steal, this would lead to widespread chaos and violence, and would be detrimental to the well-being of society. Most people agree that it’s better to prohibit aggression than to allow everyone to commit it. Therefore, aggression is intrinsically immoral. Although nearly all societies have laws prohibiting aggression, this does not mean that universal ethics are necessarily reflected by that society’s government or its dominant ideology. In ethics, a ‘universal code of ethics’ is a system of ethics that can apply to every sentient being.” 1
But What Good is a Set of Principles?
There are many tools for decision making, but few (secular) guides to indicate when situations might have an ethical implication. Yet this awareness is a crucial first step before decisions are made. Recognizing the moral context of a situation must precede any attempt to resolve it. Otherwise, what’s to resolve?
Ethical dilemmas rarely present themselves as such. They usually pass us by before we know it or develop so gradually that we can only recognize them in hindsight – a little like noticing the snake after you’ve been bitten. But what are the signs that a snake might be present? An ethical framework is like a ‘snake detector’.
I offer the following principles as landmarks – generic indicators to be used as compelling guides for an active conscience. They are NOT absolute rules or values. They are more like a rough measurement where an exact one is not possible. They often conflict with each other in practice, and some will trump others under certain circumstances. But as principles that need to be considered, they appear constant.
These principles are compatible with the argument that we should simply follow our intuition and rely on the ‘inner voice’. However, that voice is not always audible, and today’s society presents a wide range of complex circumstances that require more guidance than simply ‘concern for others’ or ‘does it feel right?’ And so these principles are offered effectively as a more detailed reference.
In a sense, the principles are outcomes of the mother of all principles – unconditional love and compassion – which appears in virtually all faiths, and is expressed here as ‘concern for the well-being of others’. (This principle is at the heart of the stakeholder model of ethics, i.e. what is my impact on others?) At first glance, they will appear obvious and perhaps trite or simplistic. Keep in mind that they are meant to be practical rather than groundbreaking, and that many people have found them useful in the absence of other guides.
The principles have been organized into three categories for ease of use: personal, professional and global ethics.(Colero, n.d.).
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