More on my Godless Morals
This is a follow-up to my previous post on the Infinite Perspective Vortex; you should probably read that first.
In an insightful conversation stemming from Unapologetic Atheist's damn fine post about conventional wisdom, an anonymous commenter quoted the Christian Answers website:
As with all moral issues, our beliefs about our origin determine our attitude. If we believe that we arose from slime by a combination of random chance events and the struggle for survival, it is understandable to say that there is no higher authority, and we can make our own rules.This, in a nutshell, is the theistic "how can you possibly be a good person without god" straw man.
I mean, yes, there is no higher authority, and we do have to make our own rules, because somebody has to, but does the fact that we must make our own rules mean that we can make those rules be whatever we want? I would argue we can't, for the simple reason that our actions have consequences, and some of those consequences are pain and suffering and death, which we, for some reason that just is, tend not to want to experience.
In my previous post, I said,
My life is the only thing I have, and the only chance I have. The rest of humanity is in the same boat. Up against more than any one of us can handle alone, and without our mommies, or our deities, to get us out of our messes, we're left with the choice of hanging together, or hanging separately.Using that as a basis for moral reasoning, it turns out that my morals end up sometimes identical, and sometimes less, and sometimes even more, exacting, than the morals of the Abrahamic traditions.
And that, in a nutshell, is where I get my morals from. I know that I'm no more or less special than anybody else. I don't want anybody to take away my one chance to exist and to flourish, because even if it means nothing in the grand scheme of things, it means everything to me. I don't want anybody else's chance taken away either.
For example, murder, stealing, lying - all wrong, because they hurt people.
When it comes to sexuality, there's no question my morals would be a bit depraved in the opinion of the Christian Right. I don't have some kind of omnipotent, omniscient being obsessing over what I do with my crotch and threatening me with eternal punishment if I violate any number of arbitrary rules and double standards. As a result, I'm free do do pretty much whatever I want, with whoever I want, as long as it's safe, sane, consensual, and fun - again, if it's not SSCF, it's hurting people, and that's wrong.
On the other hand, there are some areas where my beliefs are more stringent and more demanding than the Abrahamic religions, and that's where it comes to social and environmental responsibility.
For example, I'm not aware of any commandment not to buy clothes made in sweatshops, but I feel strongly that supporting abuse and exploitation of other human beings is seriously immoral.
Similarly, while Christians have been known to justify desecration (and I used that word on purpose) of the environment because God gave them dominion over the earth, in my opinion damaging the environment is, again, seriously immoral, because that is everybody's children's future we're wrecking. If you're a Christian, you might believe it doesn't matter because the Rapture is coming soon, but if you're a bit more reality-oriented, you realize that people have been believing the Rapture will be during their lifetimes for close to 2000 years now, and so maybe we should get our acts together in case we have to wait another 2000 years.
Here's where things get difficult: my godless morality has made my sex life morally A-OK. But in other areas I really am a terrible sinner.
There is only one store I know of that carries clothes I like, in my size. I have no idea if these clothes are made in sweatshops. It would be easy to research and find out, but I haven't done it. Why? Because I don't want to have to stop shopping there.
Also, until recently, I owned a car, and sometimes I would take the long way home for the simple reason that driving is enjoyable. I also buy the regular vegetables rather than the organic, eat meat and dairy, and don't recycle nearly as much as I could.
In conventional, western, theist moralities, maybe these things don't seem so bad. So I'm not a very good hippie. So what? But the fact of the matter is, by doing these apparently-minor things, I'm contributing to abuse, exploitation, and the depletion and destruction of our ecosystems and non-renewable resources. This is a really seriously bad thing, way worse than any of the various ridiculous sexual and gender-role taboos I may have violated. By failing to behave with proper respect for the environment and for social justice, I am adding straws to the camel's back, and I am letting down everybody on Earth, and all of our future descendents.
That's a pretty hard rap to take. What's worse, and Richard touched on this in his response to Part I, is that I really have no way out of this enormous responsibility and guilt. If I were a Christian, I could go pray for forgiveness and that would be that. I would know that even if life on Earth is kindof sucky, everything will be made fair later and the good people who are being harmed by my choices will get to go to heaven. No such luck for me. I can either live right or live knowing the harm I'm doing.
And I have a feeling I still haven't sold this to the theists.