I’m often astounded by other people who, on learning of some of my atheist-leaning ideas, insist that without a supernatural being or an afterlife of reward and/or punishment, I must be morally inept. As if I was lost without anything with which to guide my moral life. Perhaps it’s simply the company that I find myself in that make such astounding assumptions, but I fear the problem is larger.
So, for the sake of argument, I will attempt, briefly, to detail the various ways in which a moral and ethical standing can be achieved without the belief of a supernatural being and/or afterlife of reward and/or punishment.
It seems to me that there are things which we can, without a supernatural being guiding us, deduce through reason are good, and things which are wrong. There are gray areas, it’s true, but on the whole I think that a sound morality can be developed though thoughtful reasoning, and even in the gray areas, they are gray for a reason, and simply because a religion decrees them on one side or the other does not make them so, the gray area remains.
There are important questions that I think should go into every discussion on morality, such as:
– Will my actions bring harm to anyone?
– If my actions may result in harming someone, is it necessary?
– If my actions may result in harming someone and it is necessary, am I taking every precaution to limit the chance someone else will be harmed?
– Will my actions result in benefits, either to myself or to others?
Once we work through the above questions, I think we would also need to consider our intent. Our intent may be different then the outcome of whatever action is in question, and while the justice system does not take into account for such situations, I think our morality would be remiss if it did not. If our intent is to benefit others and to not bring harm to others and then if in the end our actions bring about harm, while we are still responsible, I think we can hardly be held tot he same moral accountability (to ourselves at least) as if our intentions had been bad from the start.
None of the above mentioned questions or thought processes involve or depend upon the existence of a supernatural being and/or an afterlife. The above questions should aptly equip us as thinking individuals to guide most moral questions that might be proposed to us, and, as mentioned earlier, there will always be certain gray areas which are cause for debate, but the decree of one institution hardly forces things to black and white.
Just, as usual, food for thought.
until next time,