Thinking it through…being godless is hard!


One of the most difficult stumbling blocks on my road to not believing in a god or gods (and it was definitely a road, not a moment) was realizing how hard it was to get rid of the religious framework and actually start thinking about my actions.

As a Christian, specifically a rather liberal Roman Catholic, I didn’t have to think about good and bad. I just looked at what those two stone tablets said. Plus the other 613 commandments in the OT that weren’t chiseled into stone.

Additional 123 tablets not shown.

Not so surprisingly, I discovered when I became a full-blown heathen that a lot of the religious rules were pretty good. (Certainly not all…some are horrible, some make no sense and a fair number are just silly.) But that wasn’t enough for me. I didn’t just want to know WHAT to do certain things. I wanted to know WHY.

Don’t kill.

That’s a good rule. But why?

Because God will roast you for eternity when you eventually die.

That no longer works because I don’t believe a god exists.

How about this: you wouldn’t like it if someone killed you, or someone you cared about. You get certain benefits living in a society in which the majority of people don’t try to kill each other. Pragmatically, killing someone can inspire the people they care about to try and kill you back.

And in extreme circumstances, like self-defense against someone trying to murder you, it isn’t the end of the world if you have to kill someone.

Who told me that? No one. I came to that conclusion myself. I didn’t read it in a book, and I wasn’t told it by someone preaching from a pulpit.

And I think I’m all the better for it.

How about you?

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Posted on July 22, 2011, in Atheism, Philosophy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. It’s extremely difficult to explain “moral code”, from an atheist’s standpoint, to a Christian. They are not free thinkers and as such can’t grasp the notion of how we, atheists, arrive at doing good. It’s quite fascinating, actually.

    Building upon your thoughts of why it’s bad to kill. Man is older than Christianity. How did mankind flourish without this book? Without those stone tablets? Without the guidance of Jesus Christ? Without the trials of Moses? You get my point.

    I believe that man is innately good. Due to circumstances through life, one chooses to, or happens into, evil things. That person can then be seen as an evil person, or simply an evil-doer. Original sin, to a non-believer, is essentially non-existent. We do not have the luxury of referencing, or ultimately blaming, a religion for our good, or bad, deeds.

  2. A Poor Fellow Soldier

    Being Athiest is hardly difficult. With no religious framework of morality, you can bend your “Moral code” any time its convenient. Athiest = Easy

    PFSOCATS

  3. I like this post. Although I believe in God, I have met many so-called heathens that were more spiritual or more good than many people belonging to a specific religious order or group. I in fact, have learned moral or spiritual values from atheists & pagans.

    One of the things that I have watched lately is the differences between liberals and conservatives questions. You have hit part of the nail on the head. Liberals ask WHY or WHAT while conservatives predominantly ask WHO. Conservatives want to know WHO said it(pope, priest, book or authority) and they want to know WHO are you(are you important). This is actually why we talk past each other.

    Recently two conservatives from this blog argued for a lengthy time on supposed principals and issues but if anyone took the time to really see their argument, they were really arguing WHO was the boss, the pope or the bible!

    Thanks.

  4. “Being Athiest is hardly difficult. With no religious framework of morality, you can bend your “Moral code” any time its convenient.”

    For example?

    And what do you mean by ‘convenient’?

    I can bend my moral code, certainly. That is one of the advantages, though it causes a great deal of thought and consideration. I make no claim to ultimate or absolute knowledge. So if someone presents me with a better way of behaving, I will certainly consider it.

    For example, and as I mentioned in the post, I will certainly not hold to my own code so strictly that I would let myself die rather than fight back against an attacker.

    You seem to think that I just choose what to do on a whim. That’s not the case. I have to consider how it will impact my life and the lives of those around me. I don’t just blindly follow the rules that someone else told me I had to follow, and let the chips fall where they may.

    That would be irresponsible.

  5. My feeling is this: As an atheist, I naturally cling to science. The very premise of science is the constant search for answers. I’ve said this many, MANY times on this blog. If we knew everything, science would cease to exist.

    SO… building upon NotAScientist’s (from now on known as NAS) comment above, what I know today, is true today. We are always learning and evolving as a people and as a species. The Truth, as Christians like to call it, changes for atheists as we grow. As we grow individually, but also as a group, culture/society, species, etc. Correct me if I’m wrong on how you feel about this NAS.

  6. A Poor Fellow Soldier

    “I can bend my moral code, certainly. That is one of the advantages, though it causes a great deal of thought and consideration. I make no claim to ultimate or absolute knowledge. So if someone presents me with a better way of behaving, I will certainly consider it.

    For example, and as I mentioned in the post, I will certainly not hold to my own code so strictly that I would let myself die rather than fight back against an attacker.

    You seem to think that I just choose what to do on a whim. That’s not the case. I have to consider how it will impact my life and the lives of those around me. I don’t just blindly follow the rules that someone else told me I had to follow, and let the chips fall where they may.

    That would be irresponsible.”

    Exactly, and my code is rigid and divine and I have taken the vows of the order, I am not perfect by any means, none of G-Ds children are, thats what the rules are for, they allow us a buffer to keep us on the path. My creator set my rules, just as I set those for my children, I cannot change them only obey or disobey.

    PFSOCATS

  7. I like what you guys are saying in many ways because you’re thinking about things. Like Lyn says, “If we knew everything, science would cease to exist.” I also like the part about, “The Truth, ….changes…as we grow. As we grow individually, but also as a group, culture/society, species, etc.”

    Again though, people are still talking past each other.

    The Christian view of Atheism: Atheists believe in nothing. While Christians, rightly or wrongly believe in the Pope, the Bible, Saviors, Savants and Morals the atheists believe in a negative by Christian standards. Their main credo is “We DON’T believe that God Exists.” The main body(as if there were one) has no other central belief. They are not a collection of tree huggers, scientists, politicians or people that have a central idea that they can hang their hat on. Some may claim that atheists seek truth but that isn’t altogether the truth is it. There are many atheists that are bad people and could care one whit about the truth. I believe though that there are many, many atheists that are great people with high moral standards.

    To prove my point I anxiously await the day that I eventually meet my first Atheist Saint. I’ve already seen many, many Christians that are evil, so obviously being a Christian isn’t an automatic pass to moral behavior.

    This is evidenced by some people that claimed they were Christians on this blog but displayed very, very unchristian-like behavior in the interest of showing others how wrong they were. I laugh at their mindset of “I was only evil because they were evil.”

    With all due respect to others viewpoints the analogy of “I’m good because I learned not to kill” is not very good. The exact nature that Christians believe about atheists is that when the chips are down, when the poop hits the fan, when “I have to get that job, car, house, or something else I too will cheat, lie, contrive, manipulate and control to get it. And since there is no hell, not only will I not be punished but it’s my obligation to do this so as to ensure the survival of the species.” This is what Christians think about Atheists. They believe the fallback option for atheists is self-interest every time.

    The Christians believe that they have a system of goodness, a higher order, a special purpose and that many times for many Christians they will do the right thing despite their own interests. Christians think that they have an external value or system for which they have to live. Many actually do walk the talk but the history of Christianity proves that evil exists everywhere, especially in the well-intentioned. Christians have invariably proved that they are NO BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE.

    Despite their own difficulties Christians believe that Atheists only believe in rocks and stones and DNA. A hard world with hard facts.

    This is the difficult part for the Atheists, in many ways it’s an eternally HOPELESS position.

    It’s a complicated world and I have my own problems. I can only take solace in the fact that sometimes I face my problems and say “I guess I was wrong but I’m better now.” Thanks.

  8. “My creator set my rules, just as I set those for my children, I cannot change them only obey or disobey.”

    Then you are not acting morally. A robot obeys commands. If you can not articulate why any command is moral beyond “because God says so” then you ‘ve lost the argument before you’ve started. Obeying a set of rules that are not questioned because of fear of punishment/expectation of reward is amoral at best, and any god which required us to hold to a standard which we can not understand – if it existed – is patently EVIL and not only unworthy of respect, but should be spurned. Learn to think for yourself, man! There’s so much that is wonderful about so much and thinking about one’s own ethics is one of the noblest of endeavors! Why anyone would deprive his/herself of this is beyond my reckoning…

  9. InformationForager: You’re right, people DO talk past one another. Especially on topics of religion. Most people are so sure that their way is the right way, anything else is just rubbish. Both sides are bad about this. But I believe, by all right, that Christians are the worst. We heathens just simply haven’t found Jesus yet. To Christians, there’s always a “yet” in there. You know?

    This is why I hate debating closed-minded Christians. I know I make fun of Christians and say they’re all closed-minded; but to be fare, I have met a few open-minded ones. But no matter how RIGHT I might be about a topic, I am still wrong.

    I created a post a while back called, “God Hates Paraplegics.” I was attempting to point out that god wasn’t real by displaying something that should’ve been a no-brainer. My argument? God cures cancer, loss of vision, arthritis, and many other grand feats. But why, I say why hasn’t he ever given a paraplegic his legs back? Are you telling me that not ONE of them, not a single one, was deserving enough to earn his legs. God cured cancer, etc. But not leglessness.

    It was an absurd post for an absurd notion. Go read it sometime. But my point is this: Christians are capable of only answering the easy questions. Morality – what is it? God gives me my morality. But with tough questions like, “Why hasn’t god ever given a man his legs back?” are asked, they say things like, “God works in mysterious ways.”

    Why is this acceptable? Why have we become so complacent of such a barbaric religion that was nothing more than an early form of government?

  10. And why is it that Christians feel like they have a monopoly on “good.” Good can only come from subscribing to fairy tales?

  11. beleivers think that morals come from god, so they cannot accept that athiests are capable of determining their own moral code

    in fact, understanding good and evil and being able to make that distinction is what original sin is – trying to be as god and know good from evil all on your own

    which is why they call us arrogant and we call them children

  12. Obey god for burn in hell. Simple shit.

  13. The whole moral issue is nonsense. Human’s created religion, ergo creating their respective moral code. Problem is this: My moral code is based on a 2011 society. Theirs hasn’t changed. I don’t feel that it’s okay to have slaves and beat my wife, today; I might have felt different during biblical times, however. “Everyone else is doing it. Why not?” Smack, smack. “Now get me some tea!”

  14. It’s interesting because many Christians base their moral code on “God says so!” I don’t thank that at all(but then again I’m really an ostracized Christian). My belief is that we are all ONE and so to act immorally or to hurt someone is hurting God and hurting Us.

    I wouldn’t hammer my hand would I? I won’t poke my eye out will I? Because we are so separated from one another we don’t understand the consequences. We don’t feel the pain and we don’t understand the psychological trauma. Because of that we have so called moral codes and rules.

    If I took enough drugs I could injure myself again without the so called consequences. I would feel no pain. How we got to this state is a whole other post. Thanks.

  15. Informationforager,
    I have quite a few friends who consider themselves “spriritual.” They don’t profess the Christian faith; and some don’t even believe in the Christian view of what god is. They, simply put, have a personal connection to their god. I can respect that. I don’t buy, still; but I can respect it. More so than the sheep mentality of most Christians following one another like ducks in a row.

    We are all responsible for our own actions, individually. My actions are steeped in my own personal knowledge and experience. I judge and weigh every action I make. Mostly, this happens subconsciously. It’s not some tedious task of constant calculation, however. It comes rather… natural.

    Why do my actions come so natural to me? Because they’re mine. And in all honesty, all human beings, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Scientologist, etc. alike, share 99% the same moral code. It’s that nitty-gritty, 1%, pettiness that tears us all apart. Most are simply too blind to realize they have more in common with their current adversary than they have dissimilar. It’s rather sad, really.

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