Saturday, April 26, 2008

Morality is a village.

The atheist belief system constitute a new religion - Beliefnet Forums I am a member of a society with well defined moral and ethical standards that are accepted, internalized, and enforced by all members of that society. These moral and ethical standards have been developed to facilitate safe productive living in a global, pluralistic, interdependent society. Although they are a distributed resource, in that there is no single entity or guy in a fancy dress telling us what to do, they are nevertheless strongly maintained by law, custom, and personal interaction. Even a minor transgression will be confronted, by anything from a raised eyebrow, to a lawsuit. The reasonable Gods in this society have adopted these ethical and moral structures and overlaid a gloss of their particular theological tenets.

But when God transgresses these standards, by for example by preaching hatred of minority groups that are respected members of the society, we will and indeed must call the God wrong. And we will be right to do so. A dysfunctional God gets no free pass in a reasonable society simply because someone has faith in Herm. Even a supernatural omnipotent alpha humanoid has to wipe Herm feet when coming in out of the mud, say "thank you for your hospitality" to Herm host, even if that host is a hated minority, and generally comply with the host's moral standards.

Your Christian God the Son would probably fit in quite nicely His Father would be better off staying out there in the supernatural ether which I call Hell.

I am not sure that how we treat each other does not encompass all human interactions. I agree with KW that morality is universal. Nodding to a stranger on the street is a moral interaction. As is giving a person a wide berth on the sidewalk. It is actions like these that define "my society."
[QUOTE] As I have it, moral absolutism and moral relativism are both mistaken arguments [/QUOTE] The problem comes in the definition of "my society" in a diverse, pluralistic community. I spent many years in old Greenwich Village in NYC. Certain people could leave their car parked and running on the curb while they went into the barber shop for a trim or a shave. If a cop came by someone would jump into the car as if to move it to avoid the ticket. Any one who was not a member of that society would have to find a legal parking space, carefully lock and alarm their car to run into the deli next to the barber shop for a bagel. In both societies the morality of parking a car was absolute, although quite relative depending on which society one accepted as their own.

I have to go with KW here. I think the common moral tendencies have nothing at all to do with don't do this or that to another unknown human (which is my argument with the moral sense tests.) The common moral tendencies are of the form do whatever is mandated by the (fairly local) society the individual is a part of.

I think it is no accident that the village or parish is the basic unit of human society. Our monkeysphere is about 150-200 people whose behavior we can affect with the subtle social cues (the raised eyebrow, frown, or quick smile ) to say that behavior is or is not in accordance with the morals of the society. That is, what our common moral tendencies tell us is right. The morality of the village is pretty well solidified by Fulghum's Kindergarten but is malleable with difficulty at any age, but it usually takes God to make a major change in the adults. But to do so the belief in God must be part of the toddler's conditioning. Or, per the Jesuit maxim: "Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man.

Where these groups are local, isolated and stable almost anything can be moral, witch burning, infanticide, child sacrifice, killing everybody in the next village. Whoops, almost forgot, except the virgins.

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