Only Atheists can be truly moral

shankara

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How does that empathy make you a more moral person though? It just means you can understand someone’s situation...it doesn’t mean that it makes is moral situation. You can still walk a mile in someone’s shoes and think they did the wrong thing.

Christianity says that murder is wrong..knowing the murderers background doesn’t make it right Or moral. Christianity says lying is wrong..knowing people who lie all the time doesn’t make it right or moral.
Well in particular it allows us to understand how others suffer. By feeling empathy we come to treat people as we would like to be treated. In the case of someone who kills, though obviously we aren't going to judge such an action to be right, by understanding the trauma that person has been through which led them to such a point (if that is the case) then we might understand that there are extenuating circumstances and not punish them so harshly as if that were not the case.

But empathy is not just about cases like this. There are many instances in life where we humans can be judgemental with our fellow beings, condemning them for their flaws (without noticing our own flaws) and blaming things on them. Through empathy we can come to understand that were we in a similar situation we might also develop the same flaws. It's easy to be like "oh they could have done that" or "oh they could have done this", it is more difficult to really try to understand what another person's experience of life is like for them, in their subjective experience, rather than looking from our outside perspective and thinking we know them and have the wisdom to judge.

Such feeling for one's fellow human beings is the primary cause of "treating others as we would wish to be treated". We should cultivate it.
 






Lisa

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Well in particular it allows us to understand how others suffer. By feeling empathy we come to treat people as we would like to be treated. In the case of someone who kills, though obviously we aren't going to judge such an action to be right, by understanding the trauma that person has been through which led them to such a point (if that is the case) then we might understand that there are extenuating circumstances and not punish them so harshly as if that were not the case.

But empathy is not just about cases like this. There are many instances in life where we humans can be judgemental with our fellow beings, condemning them for their flaws (without noticing our own flaws) and blaming things on them. Through empathy we can come to understand that were we in a similar situation we might also develop the same flaws. It's easy to be like "oh they could have done that" or "oh they could have done this", it is more difficult to really try to understand what another person's experience of life is like for them, in their subjective experience, rather than looking from our outside perspective and thinking we know them and have the wisdom to judge.

Such feeling for one's fellow human beings is the primary cause of "treating others as we would wish to be treated". We should cultivate it.
How does that equal morality though?
mo·ral·i·ty
\mə-ˈra-lə-tē, mȯ-\
noun
  • : beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior
  • : the degree to which something is right and good : the moral goodness or badness of something
In morality there is a good and bad, right behavior and wrong behavior...where does empathy come into that? All you’ve talked about is empathizing with people’s life..but it doesn’t seem that morality has anything to do with empathy at all. As you are trying to find the goodness and badness of something...we don’t just say o, poor you...you had a hard life...I can see why you committed murder. NO..that’s not the right thing at all. Everyone has a hard life..but not everyone decides to murder someone over it. Right v wrong.
 






shankara

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How does that equal morality though?
mo·ral·i·ty
\mə-ˈra-lə-tē, mȯ-\
noun
  • : beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior
  • : the degree to which something is right and good : the moral goodness or badness of something
In morality there is a good and bad, right behavior and wrong behavior...where does empathy come into that? All you’ve talked about is empathizing with people’s life..but it doesn’t seem that morality has anything to do with empathy at all. As you are trying to find the goodness and badness of something...we don’t just say o, poor you...you had a hard life...I can see why you committed murder. NO..that’s not the right thing at all. Everyone has a hard life..but not everyone decides to murder someone over it. Right v wrong.
Empathy perhaps allows us to see the continuum of right and wrong and it's many grey areas with a little more clarity than simple "right/wrong" judgements. By putting ourselves in the position of others, we grasp that in their situations we may have done the same thing. It is easy to think of ourselves as very good people who would never do wicked things, it is more difficult to face the reality that we are all quite frail and may be prone to fall into committing the same negative acts as those who we judge, were we to experience the same circumstances.

But the question of empathy isn't just about judging criminals, it's also about seeing the suffering of others in clarity. For example it is easy to say of the poor "oh they are lazy", "oh they don't want to work", but if we really put ourselves in their position and try to understand how they have experienced life, the conditioning they have undergone, the environments in which they were raised, then we start to see that our moralistic value judgements are rather one-sided.

And not only that, also in things of everyday life, it is empathy which helps us to behave decently to people. We don't make intense harsh criticisms of people and tell them they are worthless and evil because we have empathy, and we understand how we would feel if someone behaved like that towards us, that it wouldn't help us to grow but would simply make us feel bad and develop self-hate.

Empathy is the foundation of compassion, basically, and if you can't see the importance of compassion, well, I really don't know what to say...
 






shankara

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How does that equal morality though?
mo·ral·i·ty
\mə-ˈra-lə-tē, mȯ-\
noun
  • : beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior
  • : the degree to which something is right and good : the moral goodness or badness of something
In morality there is a good and bad, right behavior and wrong behavior...where does empathy come into that? All you’ve talked about is empathizing with people’s life..but it doesn’t seem that morality has anything to do with empathy at all. As you are trying to find the goodness and badness of something...we don’t just say o, poor you...you had a hard life...I can see why you committed murder. NO..that’s not the right thing at all. Everyone has a hard life..but not everyone decides to murder someone over it. Right v wrong.
Actually you raise a somewhat interesting question. In the case of someone who kills another, you are dealing with someone who has acted in a way which is completely without empathy for their victim. Hopefully the reason we don't kill people isn't simply because "God said not to", but because we have empathy for our fellow beings and would not ourselves want to be in the situation of being killed. Actually, if you don't kill just because "God said not to", you should perhaps be a little bit worried for yourself.

Buddha puts it quite nicely:
"All beings tremble before danger. All fear death. When you consider this, you will not kill or cause someone else to kill."
 






Lisa

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Empathy perhaps allows us to see the continuum of right and wrong and it's many grey areas with a little more clarity than simple "right/wrong" judgements. By putting ourselves in the position of others, we grasp that in their situations we may have done the same thing. It is easy to think of ourselves as very good people who would never do wicked things, it is more difficult to face the reality that we are all quite frail and may be prone to fall into committing the same negative acts as those who we judge, were we to experience the same circumstances.

But the question of empathy isn't just about judging criminals, it's also about seeing the suffering of others in clarity. For example it is easy to say of the poor "oh they are lazy", "oh they don't want to work", but if we really put ourselves in their position and try to understand how they have experienced life, the conditioning they have undergone, the environments in which they were raised, then we start to see that our moralistic value judgements are rather one-sided.

And not only that, also in things of everyday life, it is empathy which helps us to behave decently to people. We don't make intense harsh criticisms of people and tell them they are worthless and evil because we have empathy, and we understand how we would feel if someone behaved like that towards us, that it wouldn't help us to grow but would simply make us feel bad and develop self-hate.

Empathy is the foundation of compassion, basically, and if you can't see the importance of compassion, well, I really don't know what to say...
In what you’re saying empathy helps you not see the morality of it all and go by feelings...poor thing you suffered..well then I understand why you did that. You have to stop moralizing that they did wrong.

People can overcome the environment they were raised in..and many have..so that’s a cop out issue you’ve brought up.

Compassion is good..but so is morality..judging right from wrong. Without that you have emotional babies who commit lawlessness just because...
 






threepwood

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Actually you raise a somewhat interesting question. In the case of someone who kills another, you are dealing with someone who has acted in a way which is completely without empathy for their victim. Hopefully the reason we don't kill people isn't simply because "God said not to", but because we have empathy for our fellow beings and would not ourselves want to be in the situation of being killed. Actually, if you don't kill just because "God said not to", you should perhaps be a little bit worried for yourself.

Buddha puts it quite nicely:
"All beings tremble before danger. All fear death. When you consider this, you will not kill or cause someone else to kill."
Very true! I agree 100%. That's basically the whole point of the new testament (Matthew 22,36-40). If you follow the law because you have to, you aren't a righteous (or moral) person. You have to want to follow the law. But be careful whose law you follow or want to embrace. Both lessons could have been learned during the 1940s.

Kind regards,
threepwood
 






Lisa

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Very true! I agree 100%. That's basically the whole point of the new testament (Matthew 22,36-40). If you follow the law because you have to, you aren't a righteous (or moral) person. You have to want to follow the law. But be careful whose law you follow or want to embrace. Both lessons could have been learned during the 1940s.

Kind regards,
threepwood
If you aren’t saved...shouldn’t you be following the law, since you are under the law?
 






Kung Fu

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There is much talk about whether or not Atheists can be moral people, for we don't have such things as the Bible to guide us, but think of this:

An Atheist and a Christian (or anyone of any religion-- i'll use 'Christian' here just to keep it simple) both donate the same amount to the same charity. I argue that the charitable action of the Atheist is more moral than that of the Christian, because the Atheist did so without any incentive or motivation.

The Christian has heaven to look forward to, so in truth, no good thing they do goes un-rewarded. The Atheist on the other hand, doesn't believe in an afterlife, and so they donate genuinely expecting nothing in return.

Does not the expectation of reimbursement negate the morality of an action?
Of course, atheists can be moral people.
 






threepwood

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Hi Lisa,

the law is the law. There is no escape to that. It teaches us, whats right and whats wrong. Well.. the last part very much depends on the law. But technically, its still true.

Kind regards,
threepwood
 






shankara

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In what you’re saying empathy helps you not see the morality of it all and go by feelings...poor thing you suffered..well then I understand why you did that. You have to stop moralizing that they did wrong.

People can overcome the environment they were raised in..and many have..so that’s a cop out issue you’ve brought up.

Compassion is good..but so is morality..judging right from wrong. Without that you have emotional babies who commit lawlessness just because...
Well of course there is negativity, and we should not shy away from saying that negative things are negative. But empathy keeps us from doing negative things, those things which harm our fellow beings, not because anyone tells us not to but because we recognize that such acts and ways of living cause suffering to others. When we empathize with others, we naturally don't want them to suffer, and so we don't do things which make them suffer. It's perhaps possible to be moral just by cultivating such a feeling, it's a good guide.

There is also the notion that we should not hate those who have done wrong. We may hate what they do, but that doesn't mean we hate the person. Christ puts it quite clearly - "judge not lest ye be judged".
 






Lyfe

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...when will we humble ourselves and admit that we arent as good as we claim to be? If you ask anyone they will tell you they are a good person, yet in a society of so many self professed good people how can so much evil and injustice persist? How can the hip hop industry and all the wickedness it promotes exist in a society of so many good people? How can such an entertainment industry exist? Why is 42 million aborted babies an acceptable and tolerated thing? We deceive ourselves by thinking we are good, because true goodness would not be idle or indifferent to such evils. True goodness would not tolerate these things. It wouldn't be indifferent. It would be grieved and heartbroken over everything that this culture has come to embrace. The typical day in my life used to consist of gangster rap and violent video games, yet I considered myself a moral person. I had deceived myself, because how can someone who is truly moral be indifferent to music that glorifies the prostitution of women, drugs, and murder? How could I as a good person be so numb and callous to movies and video games that repeatedly bombard my senses with people having their limbs blown off or having their head ripped open by an m16 as blood gushes out of their skull? God grieves and is heartbroken over these things, yet we as people lust after and cant get enough of these entertainments. How can we claim to be good yet be so indifferent to these things? If someone thinks that this is a moral culture then they are proud and deceives themselves...
 






Lisa

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When we empathize with others, we naturally don't want them to suffer, and so we don't do things which make them suffer. It's perhaps possible to be moral just by cultivating such a feeling, it's a good guide.
You’re ignoring that morality is about good and bad not about empathizing with people. You can empathize with someone and still think what they did was wrong. Like if they murder someone...steal from someone, lie to someone. Someones past doesn’t negate their wrong actions and make them innocent. I can want someone to go to jail for wrong doing..that’s moral.

Empathizing and not wanting people to suffer isn’t morality. Lyge gave a good post above this...you should read It.
 






shankara

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You’re ignoring that morality is about good and bad not about empathizing with people. You can empathize with someone and still think what they did was wrong. Like if they murder someone...steal from someone, lie to someone. Someones past doesn’t negate their wrong actions and make them innocent. I can want someone to go to jail for wrong doing..that’s moral.

Empathizing and not wanting people to suffer isn’t morality. Lyge gave a good post above this...you should read It.
You are failing to comprehend my point. Would a person kill someone if they felt genuine empathy for that person? Clearly not, and therefore empathy can be the basis for making a moral decision without any kind of external compulsion such as a "Divine Command". It may be that in some cases empathy would include the notion that the person has to undergo some process of transformation, which may involve suffering for them, because putting yourself in their position you see that such a thing is necessary for them and will ultimately lead to some kind of redemption. But that is not the same thing as hating the person and being vengeful towards them.
 






Lisa

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You are failing to comprehend my point. Would a person kill someone if they felt genuine empathy for that person? Clearly not, and therefore empathy can be the basis for making a moral decision without any kind of external compulsion such as a "Divine Command". It may be that in some cases empathy would include the notion that the person has to undergo some process of transformation, which may involve suffering for them, because putting yourself in their position you see that such a thing is necessary for them and will ultimately lead to some kind of redemption. But that is not the same thing as hating the person and being vengeful towards them.
Who are you to know what is best for someone else?
 






Lisa

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We are born with a moral compass

Yep!
Romans‬ ‭2:14-15‬ ‭
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.
 






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We are born with a moral compass

Interesting article. I thought these two statements were poignant:

"When it comes to personal relationships, empathy can be a good thing—I wouldn’t want a parent, a child, or a spouse who lacked empathy." and "Our moral judgements and moral actions are driven mostly by gut feelings—rational thought has little to do with it."

Also, this picture always makes me smile and it seems to correlate with the article that compassion in (healthy) babies is innate:

 






shankara

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Who are you to know what is best for someone else?
Well I'm not saying my own empathy and compassion are fully or even highly developed. But somebody truly capable of understanding the experience of others would develop a somewhat clear view on what would likely be best for them. In any case beginning from such a standpoint would be much more human than beginning from the basis of vengeance and wanting to inflict suffering without regard for whether such suffering serves any purpose.
 






shankara

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Who are you to know what is best for someone else?
Anyway, on another note, I think you missed the point of what I was saying, that if a person acts with empathy they generally act in ways which aren't harmful to others (or themselves) which is a major element if not the defining feature of morality or ethics. It might be that in some cases what we label to be empathy isn't true empathy and it requires some cognitive notions about right and wrong to inform our way of feeling. But in general to "follow the heart" is often the right path.
 






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