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Atheist Morality

The purpose of this group is to discuss morality from all points of view: biological, evolutionary, philosophical. Specific moral questions are encouraged: if you have a moral question for us atheists, feel free to post it here.

Location: #philosophy
Members: 96
Latest Activity: Dec 28, 2015

Do atheists have morals?

We atheists are pretty tired of hearing that without religion, there would be no morality. It is offensive to us atheists, since this implies we cannot possibly be moral, or if we are in fact, moral, it is because we were raised in a culture in which morality was initially acquired, and still perpetuated, by religion.
While it is indeed possible that some people may need religion in order to be moral, this is a scary thought: their morality has not been reasoned or felt in their gut, it was "ordered" from above.
Human beings have had moral laws and codes for thousands and thousands of years before religion was ever invented, at least in an organized form.  Human beings around the globe, from many religious backgrounds, have pretty much the same basic set of rules, starting with the Golden Rule. Why? Because our moral sense comes from the evolution of our brains and the need to live as a social species, avoiding conflict and increasing cooperation.  Our moral sense is based on our emotions: it feels good to help others, and it feels bad to harm others.
The scientific study of human nature has naturally lead to the scientific study of human morality. A good start if you're new to this fascinating and important subject is The New Science of Morality, from Edge.org.
Useful links or articles:
The Moral Instinct- great long article in the NYT by Steven Pinker
The communication of emotions and the possibility of empathy in animals, by Stephanie Preston and Frans de Waal (book chapter)
The Normative Insignificance of Neuroscience- Scholarly article by Harvard philosopher Selim Berker (hat tip to Julia Galef) who argues that we can never derive normative implications from neural facts about how we reach moral decisions. Opposite point of view to Peter Singer and Joshua Greene. Not sure I agree completely but it's good to challenge ourselves with opposing views in any field.
Moral psychology: The depths of disgust
Is there wisdom to be found in repugnance? Or is disgust 'the nastiest of all emotions', offering nothing but support to prejudice? Dan Jones looks at the repellent side of human nature.

Recent evidence suggests that moral judgment is more a matter of emotion and affective intuition than deliberate reasoning.  Psychology and cognitive neuroscience studies point to the importance of affect, although reasoning can play a restricted but significant role in moral judgment. A preliminary account of the functional neuroanatomy of moral judgment is presented, according to which many brain areas make important contributions to moral judgment although none is devoted specifically to it.
We will be adding recurrent threads that people keep adding new material to, for reference or because the subject is a tidbit that does not warrant its own separate discussion:
The Moral Treasure Chest
Moral Dilemmas- this is a thread for moral dilemmas (a part of applied ethics), feel free to post your favorite moral dilemma, real of made up, and what you would do and why (coming up soon).
Online tests: These are academic tests designed to probe our moral sense, moral cognition, and what drives our moral decisions and judgments. They are fun, they will tell you a lot about yourself, and you'll be helping researchers add to their current data.
YourMorals.org (Jonathan Haidt's group and collaborators).
The Moral Sense Test (Joshua Greene-Harvard University)

Discussion Forum

"We have failed Leah Lebresco"

Started by Don. Last reply by Onyango Makagutu Nov 4, 2013. 54 Replies

Erstwhile atheist blogger Leah Lebresco is a profound and engaging thinker whose writing I had been following for a short while.  She and my daughter were college classmates, graduating last May, and I used to enjoy her opinion pieces in the Yale…Continue


Started by Jacqueline Little. Last reply by Lester Unega Waya Oct 21, 2013. 66 Replies

I'm an Atheist. I have been for a while now. But What I don't Quite understand is why Are So many people against it?Continue

What Isn’t for Sale?

Started by A Former Member. Last reply by Onyango Makagutu Apr 30, 2013. 3 Replies

What Isn’t for Sale?Market thinking so permeates our lives that we barely notice it anymore. A leading philosopher sums up the hidden costs of a price-tag society.THERE ARE SOME THINGS money can’t buy—but these days, not many. Almost everything is…Continue

Tags: ethics, free-market capitalism, morals, economy, capitalism

The 'Truth' About Why We Lie, Cheat And Steal

Started by A Former Member Apr 21, 2013. 0 Replies

Chances are, you're a liar. Maybe not a big liar — but a liar nonetheless. That's the finding of Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. He's run experiments with some 30,000 people and found that very few…Continue

Tags: ethics, morality, psychology, Ariely, honesty

The empathy machine

Started by A Former Member Apr 20, 2013. 0 Replies

The empathy machine Sherlock was right – new research shows that seeing through another's eyes takes a detached mind not just a warm heartWhat’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name Sherlock Holmes? It might be a deerstalker, a pipe…Continue

Tags: autism, morality, feeling, Sherlock Holmes, creativity

The Moral Treasure Chest

Started by Adriana. Last reply by A Former Member Apr 9, 2013. 87 Replies

This discussion is for all the great links, pdfs, videos, or general…Continue

Tags: reports, ethics, studies, videos, philosophy

Simon Blackburn and Moral Quasi-Realism

Started by Adriana. Last reply by Adriana Apr 7, 2013. 5 Replies

I've been thinking hard about how I would describe my moral position, from a philosophical point of view. Since I do not agree with moral relativism or with moral absolutism (perhaps better called "moral realism"), I think I found a position that…Continue

Tags: philosophy, humanism, moral, quasi-realism, Simon Blackburn

How mood influences moral decisions

Started by Adriana. Last reply by Neal Mar 12, 2013. 2 Replies

Here's a great blog post in Scientific American: "How Your Moral Decisions are Shaped by a Bad Mood"…Continue

Tags: cognition, emotions, decisions, psychology, morality

Comment Wall


You need to be a member of Atheist Morality to add comments!

Comment by Stephen on December 28, 2015 at 12:18am

Comment by Chris on November 28, 2015 at 2:33am

The Napa Wildlife Rescue Center (NWRC)  has been doing great things in the Northern San Francisco Bay area for wildlife.

Some may think it's worthless to save a song bird that was hit by a cat, or a racoon, fox, or oppossom hit by a car.

I live in the Northern San Francisco Bay Area which is filled with huge subdivisions.

Because of the efforts from volunteers such as Friends of the Napa River Beavers are building dams in the area for the first time in over 150 years.

Otters and egretts have made habitate there. I don't like it being discemenated in the newspaper as proud as we should be of it because as a toruist area I'm worried some cruel person will disrupt their peace and tranquility - including a realestate developer wanting to build a hotel with views of the wildlife. 

'Single use plastic bans'  have been put in place to prevent ocean pollution. The local garbage company recenty received certification to compost food waste including meat and paper products such as napkins, and paper plates.

I spoke with a manager at the garbage company about recycling diapers. He said that isn't available yet, but diaper services, such as were available  in the 1960's before disposable diapers are available.

They can compost meat and food scraps so the pile is hot enough therefore if disposable diapers were made of corn starch based material that's biodegradable then diapers should be compostable as well.

Comment by doone on November 27, 2015 at 6:13pm
Comment by Chris on November 26, 2015 at 11:00pm

Fairness study.

Published on Apr 4, 2013

What happens when you pay two monkeys unequally? Watch what happens.
An excerpt from the TED Talk: "Frans de Waal: Moral behavior in animals." Watch the whole talk here: http://www.ted.com/talks/frans_de_waa...

Comment by doone on November 26, 2015 at 6:49pm


Ed Yong in The Atlantic:

ScreenHunter_1515 Nov. 26 18.07You're sitting at a table with a friend and a stranger offers you some candy. Hooray! Who doesn't like candy? But wait! You're not getting the same amounts. One of you gets four delicious pieces, and the other gets a measly one. Does that feel unfair? Do you bristle? Do you forfeit your candy and your friend’s candy, because they’re unevenly distributed?

For decades, psychologists have argued that the answers depend on how old you are, and whether you're the one with the bigger or smaller share. Adults seem to reject inequality of any form, and will pay a personal cost to avoid it even if they stand to get a bigger slice of the pie. Children are more nuanced.

In 2011, Katherine McAuliffe and Peter Blake showed that 8-year-olds, like adults, will reject any unequal offer. But younger children, aged 4 to 7, only bristle at situations when they are disadvantaged. In other words, they'd take the four pieces of candy, thank you very much, and screw the other kid.

“They start out with this very self-focused idea that they recognize unfairness when it’s unfair to me,” says Blake. “It takes more years for different psychological processes to kick in before they can flip that, and say: What's unfair to you is also unfair in general.”

These and other experiments have shown that our aversion to advantageous inequity (when we get more than others) is distinct from our aversion to disadvantageous inequity (when others get more than us). These two reactions involve different parts of the brain. They appear at different ages. They appear in different species: Chimpanzees and capuchins don't like disadvantageous inequity, but they'll tolerate the advantageous kind just as much as 4-year-old humans.

Now, McAuliffe and Blake have found that this distinction also depends on where we come from.

More here.

- See more at: http://www.3quarksdaily.com/#sthash.NhC1D3B3.dpuf

Comment by Chris on March 1, 2015 at 5:48pm

Book Discussion on The Moral Arc

Michael Shermer talked about his book The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom, in which he discusses how science has influenced the way we think about human rights, democracy, freedom, education, and prosperity. He spoke at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.

I can't imbed the hour and sixteen minute lecture and proceeding questions.

Here's the link: http://www.c-span.org/video/?323896-1/book-discussion-moral-arc

Comment by doone on December 23, 2014 at 10:20pm

I  saw this interesting poll on the Dish


Many atheists are surely passing around this post. One writes:

Dear Andrew (welcome back!), Chris et al: What jumped out at me in the chart accompanying your post is that the ONLY group of Americans in which a majority do not consider US torture justified is people with no religion. Hmmm. I thought that there was no morality without religion?

American religion is in pretty bad shape – or its leaders are terrible communicators, or it’s been totally hijacked by the RWNJ media – when Godless atheists exhibit more traditional morality than either Protestants or Catholics. That 40% of atheists approve of torture is appalling to this atheist, but I’ll take it over the huge majorities of “believers.”

Another non-believer sends the above graphic. Another piles on:

I’m proud of my group (non-religious people)’s views on torture being the most enlightened. It’s a big reason why I ran from Christianity.

Comment by doone on July 18, 2014 at 6:05pm

A lunch sign about morality 

Embedded image permalink
Comment by doone on July 7, 2014 at 2:16pm

The Tears Of An Elephant

JUL 7 2014 @ 12:03PM

Thailand's Elephant Hospital and Mahout School

Yesterday, there was a strikingly good reported piece in the NYT magazine on the growing evidence that consciousness does not have some kind of radical break between humans and every other species on the planet. And by consciousness, at varying levels, I mean, for example, the ability to feel fear, or joy, or anxiety, or even grief. This is emphatically not about anthropomorphism. It’s about the reality of creation:

A profusion of recent studies has shown animals to be far closer to us than we previously believed — it turns out that common shore crabs feel and remember pain, zebra finches experience REM sleep, fruit-fly brothers cooperate, dolphins and elephants recognize themselves in mirrors, chimpanzees assist one another without expecting favors in return and dogs really do feel elation in their owners’ presence. In the summer of 2012, an unprecedented document, masterminded by Low — “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in Human and Nonhuman An...”[PDF] — was signed by a group of leading animal researchers in the presence of Stephen Hawking. It asserted that mammals, birds and other creatures like octopuses possess consciousness and, in all likelihood, emotions and self-awareness.

And then I come across this rather beautiful story about an elephant around my own age, captured in his infancy, chained and shackled his entire life, until he is released by an animal welfare group:

Comment by doone on March 22, 2014 at 7:09am


CroooMichael Cronin at The Dublin Review of Books:

Louis Borges once grouped animals into three classes: those we watch television with, those we eat, and those we are scared of. Another more psychoanalytically inflected way of classifying these relationships might be the oedipal (you and me on the same sofa), the instrumental (you will end up by being eaten) and the fantasmatic (how exotic, sleek, dangerous you are). In Braidotti’s view a posthuman ethics implies an end to forms of “anthropolatry” which not only obscure emergent forms of species thinking but consign all other species to dangerous, destructive and ecologically untenable forms of subordination. If “becoming animal” in Hiberno-English is an occasional and unfortunate consequence of excessive alcohol consumption, for Braidotti it is a way of realising the irretrievably embodied, material nature of our existence on a planet that we share with innumerable other species that we continue to destroy in vast numbers. The current rate in the loss of species diversity alone is similar in intensity to the event that 65 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs. As against this, the emerging fields of eco-criticism and animal studies show the new kinds of transdisciplinary formations that are coming to the fore in the wake of the crisis of the human in the Anthropocene. In a post-Orwellian move, some animals are beginning to recognise that they might not be more equal than others and are starting to wonder what this might mean for the planet. 

more here.

- See more at: http://www.3quarksdaily.com/#sthash.JSJTb6KU.dpuf


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