On Right and Wrong

Hello Readers,

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,

Jim

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  1. #1 by Rome Johnson on January 20, 2010 - 9:10 pm

    Hello Jim,
    for the sake of responding to your article:

    I had atheist grandparents who were the most law abiding, caring, giving, loving, “good” people on earth so I believe a person can be “good”. But I believe the acceptance of just being good is an absolute trick of the devil to convince a person that being “good” is sufficient and there is no need for FAITH.

    Prior to my life serving God, I considered myself a “good” person. But I gave little regard to the issues presented by your 4 statements/questions:
    – 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?

    Why would/should I have cared if my actions resulted in harming someone, if it was necessary, if I limited the possibility of harm or if my actions benefited anyone but me?

    Without Jesus, the answer for me was that it was not possible and my concern was mostly for myself and selective at best.

    I understand your “excluding” gray areas but take a look at this scenario:

    I have a “good” atheist friend who was debating having sex with a married woman he met and he started a conversation with me about it. I asked him what there was to debate as an atheist? He said, coincidently, that he didn’t do things which could hurt other people such as her husband or with her future with her husband. And I asked, what do you care if their marriage ends because of you or your part of her infidelity crushes her husband? Besides, you won’t go to jail or anything like that. This was my own reasoning from my earlier days. He paused and thought for several minutes and had no opposing answer and is now living with her. I guess they are both happy so who cares about anyone else anyway right? And I ask you, why should he have even given it a second thought? Who, and by what authority is there on earth to say he couldn’t or shouldn’t?

    Bottom lines is: Why would you, and what wihtin your being would prompt you to want to limit your actions in any way? The answer to that is probably as “alien” to me as serving God is to you.

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