An Atheistic View of Morality

28 09 2006

So someone sent me a link to a pdf file of a 112 page document entitled, The Bible of the Good and Moral Atheist.  While I haven’t even begun to read the thing, one phrase early on made me think.

All morality begins and ends with sympathy.

In a society where the religious right is gaining more and more ground and atheists are still looked upon as amoral, it is good to remind ourselves that some morality begins and ends with sympathy.

Empathy does not belong soley to the religious.  Empathy is part of the human condition and is partly responsible for allowing humans to live in societies.  Partly responsible.

I do not think that sympathy is 100% responsible for morality.  Some morality comes from good ole fashioned genetics.  Richard Dawkins explored this in his book The Selfish Gene and Howard Bloom went into it in The Lucifer Principle.

Through evolution our brains are still hardwired to operate in certain ways.  Let’s take the example of our need to propagate the species.  This genetic need makes us behave in ways that are both selfish and selfless.  We want to make sure our offspring survive, and we’ll do almost anything to ensure this.  But we also know that unless we are able to peacefully interact with others, our offspring may not stand a chance.

This concept is true in many ways.  I am sure that you’re able to think of a few ways that you behave ‘morally’ for completely selfish reasons.  I’m not punching that stranger in the face because I sympathize with the pain he will be in, but because I don’t want to be punched back.

You don’t need to be afraid of divine retribution – there is enough immediate incentive to act morally.  In most cases, what’s good for the group is ultimately good for you.

And no, I am not, nor have ever been, a member of the communist party.  Kinda.

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