A World With No 'higher' Moral Or Ethical Authority

Asked this on another BB - and would like to ask it here for the obvious reason of getting input from folks who claim to fighting ignorance with a higher IQ than most.

What would the world look like if NO culture or country believed in God, or gods or any higher moral or ethical authority than mankind?

Not kidding.

If you can imagine a world where all people believe only in the moral and ethical imperatives of an individual or a government who have ‘sold’ their ideas to the masses - what would the world look like?

Would those with the most nuclear power dictate the lives and thoughts and laws of mankind?

Would those with the most power (economic and physical) tell us what work we should do and how we should live, and to whom we should pledge our fealty?

What person or persons or ideology would you subject your life and your loved ones to if you could chose a power higher than yourself (but NOT God or a god) -?

And would you trust him/her to never put their own interests ( or those of their benefactors or enforcers )above that of yourself and society at large?

Thought the idea would make for a great debate.

As opposed to what? A world where people make up a god that has the morals that they wish to follow, so that others have no way to question that set of morals without seeming to oppose their god?

I think it wouldn’t have looked much different from the 20th Century, when wars and international politics were dominated by ideologies and political factions in which religion was a secondary influence, if any.

Implicit in your question seems to be the idea that, if there were no God, we’d elevate someone to that role so that we’d have something to worship. I don’t that would be any truer in the OP’s world than it currently is–the 20th century was dominated by sectarian demagogues.

What Godly moral leader should the world follow? The guys offering their leadership are men I wouldn’t trust with my kitchen refuse. American moral scoutmasters are, with rare exception, squarely in the Elmer Gantry mold (William Bennett, Rush Limbaugh, Jim Bakker, et al) and abroad they’re even worse.

Alan Moore described church leaders as “unnecessary middle management positioning themselves between the faithful and the wellspring of spirituality.” I trust my moral judgment a lot more than I trust yours. Sorry.

What would the world look like if NO culture or country questioned God, or gods or any higher moral or ethical authority than mankind? It would look like the Crusades 800 years ago. Or the Taliban today. I’ll take 21st Century America, thank you.

I’m trying to get you to imagine a world in which no human being is affected by the thought of a higher power, a god, or a life after death. By either their own belief system or the belief system of any other group or person.

A world in which there is no higher power than man/womankind and that person or persons who are dictating the dealings in your life.

Statistically, most of the world believes in God in one form or another. Which is to say - most people believe that there is a higher power than themselves who is judging their behavior and their choices.

What would the world look like if NO ONE beleived in any power higher than themselves?

If ALL people believed that you live and die - and the best you can do in this life is what YOU think is best?

Would we be better or worse off if each of us were only dedicated to the service of ourselves and our own individual ideas?

Heck, I don’t believe in any spiritual power higher than myself, and if the whole world was just like me, well, aside from the species dying out becuase we’d all be male, I think we’d muddle through.

Religion is just often just a thin rationalization for power. Were it gone, other rationalizations (racial purity, the collective good, political correctness, etc) would take up the slack. If you had a world in which individuals couldn’t be swayed by collective movements of any kind… hmmm, I’d kinda like to see that. It would be interesting.

Laurie, since you started this debate, whould you please tell the rest of us what your opinion is?

The truth is that whether you believe in God or not, you have to aknowledge that it has done a world of good to mankind in that it has kept us from degenerating into chaos. Of course religiion has got us in a lot of shit i.e those who kill in it’s name, but i think that is outweighed by the vast majority who live their lives by what they perceive to be God’s word and i truly believe without it, we would have become extinct having destroyed each other. Would we have developed our own morals independent of a higher being? very possible i admit, but not a guarantee. The absence of any higher being would i think create a dangerous vacuum-just think of a world in which all the would-be Christians, Muslims et.al did not have religion to keep them in check and we could all do what we wanted without being intimidated by the thought of the wrath of God.
hehehe-the atheists are going to roast me for this…

I think the basic structures of society would still look very similar really. Maybe a little more or a little less stable from culture to culture, but otherwise very close to what is now. Enforcement of ethics can be done in the name of a billion abstract concepts with God being only one option (public good, chivalry, honor, etc.)

We obey laws because we agree with them or do not disagree enough to stand up and fight them. The weight of societal pressure is a heavy thing, regardless of moral anathemas adding more weight, and would be quite sufficient as a binding force for each culture. Humans are individuals, yes, but we are mostly social creatures who must bind with some culture and, once bound, conform to the standards of that group. Some groups have more lee-way in standards, some less, but we all join a group and we all conform as well as shape the standards within it. God only factors in by giving credence to the standards we set.

This is not, by the way, a put down of societal standards or ethics or even God. In an odd way, I believe God does exist. I don’t think God issues commandments and anathemas as the Bible or many other holy texts would have us think it. I believe societal standards serve a useful cohesive function without which it would be difficult to construct large civilizations. But societal force is, in and of itself, the “higher” authority most standards derive from with religion sometimes being used as a veneer to add potency.

I’m rambling now, so I’ll stop.

Believing there is no deity does not equal believing there is nothing to hold you accountable for your actions. We form complex social groups, and our through our contracts create a power greater than any one of us. Each individual then has the choice of submitting to or rebelling against THIS higher power, with the attendant consequences. God can be seen as just a personification of such a power.

Human beings are social creatures and tend to recognize the value of order… thou they might indulge in chaos every once in a while. I think we would have more emphasis on nationalism or philisophies instead of religion unfortunately.

Its all about some people controlling other people thru thought processes and ideology… and since the second category likes to play the part of sheep they get shorn and guided all over.

not much would change deep down. people feel what they feel, god comes in just to explain it.

90% of people will tell you that going to the store once a week, buying a chicken, haveing sex with it, then cooking and eatting it is unsettleing and wrong somehow. if not absolutely wrong than at least something that makes them uncomfortable. nearly no one on the other hand can give a really perfectly solid logical reason. many many many things are like this, and god is just a place to point to and say “he would hate it!”. its not the origin of the feelings, its just a way to explain them.

What you are essentially asking, if I understood you correctly, is this: Is there a need for God to maintain order and morality?

The argument is that if there were no God, people would run amuck in the streets and laws would be meaningless; we need God for morality to exist. This argument is lost on all non-theists, as they tend to understand that a fundamental inherent moral base is mutually exclusive from religion or any God. Those who choose to believe in a diety are confused by this line of reasoning. Perhaps all that is needed is an understanding of what is meant when it is said that an absence of God makes you a BETTER person morally, not worse; the existence of God in your life creates a propensity for the corruption of your own morality. It does not combat it.

Consider for a moment the laws of Christianity apply, that you have sinned, and you have broken some code of virtue as defined by the doctrine of morality in Christianity. You are accountable to God to make ammends for your indescretion. Because you are a Christian, your sins have already been paid for, even before you commited them. You simply need to accept the Son of God as your savior and all of your sins are washed away in the eyes of God. This is a wonderful thing for those poor souls who are Christians and have a difficult time removing themselves from their basic collective human dispositions. One of the catchy little jingles Christians are so fond of throwing around is that, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” If ever an excuse to overlook your casual indescretions in regard to sin, if only for a moment, existed–this is it.

Because the one that you are responsible to has already forgiven you, where are the feelings of remorse for having done
something you know to be wrong? Haven’t you at least dulled the blow of guilt? Where is the strong deterent for repeating this offense at your next moment of weakness? It is only when you take God from the equation, and wipe religion from the table that you realize that you are accountable to yourself. I would dare say that we are far more strict with ourselves than the Christian God of today.

God forgives the police officer who failed to run down the perpetrator and foil his escape, but you can be assured that the police officer will be absolutely brutal on himself for his failure to make the arrest. He may not ever forgive himself. The Christian woman who stole a dollar from the cash register where she works because she needed a Coke really bad is forgiven immediately in the eyes of God, yet if she has any morals about her she’s having at least a little trouble getting to sleep that night. The man who made a pass at his neighbor’s wife is hating himself for it, smacking himself upside the head for not being able to control himself, and wishing that he could take it all back, yet God acts as if it never happened. Is it any wonder, the effects that this has on society in time?

Another fantastic thing about being accountable to yourself is that you get to take full credit for everything that you have done in your life that pleases you. It was YOU that raised your children properly, made eagle on the sixth hole, beat your oldest son in a quick game of basketball, got the promotion you had been busting your ass to get, figured out what was wrong with your car stalled on the side of the road and fixed it without the aide of a repairman, a tow truck, or a simple smile from some sky pixie. If you can suspend your line of thinking when it comes to religion for just a moment and understand what is being said here, you will feel what so many atheists have felt when they finally dismissed God, self empowerment.

And once you experience this empowerment, you may find that going back to religion and God is akin to shackling your spirit to a rock. You have given up your freedoms. You have given up your choice. You have given in to your indescretions. You have turned in your morality card.

Morality with God? History has already proven that it doesn’t work. Morality with oneself? Happens all the time. After all, virtue is its own reward. Ask yourself how many criminals go to jail and find God. God is easy to find in a den of sinners, because he offers them the one thing that they cannot give themselves, fogiveness.

Think about that.

I think history demonstrates that people can get themselves into plenty of trouble with or without the concept of a god. I’d say that whenever people get into the ‘higher authority’ business, it’s usually projection, or creating a justification for something you already wanted to do that absolves you of personal responsibility. Doesn’t have to be god.

Now that is a first post.

Well-written , but too long considering the reply would be shorter than the post itself.

  1. Your post is a response to Christianity, not all religions. Plenty of theists have religions which hold them quite accountable for their actions regardless of forgiveness, etc.

  2. Not even all Christian denominations buy the automatic forgiveness thing. Catholicism, for example, believes that good acts are necessary as much as grace for salvation, acknowledgement and penance must be done to atone for one’s sins, plus several other quibbles.

  3. So far as I’m aware, the concept isn’t that God forgives you all your sins. It is that God’s grace makes up the difference between what is your best as a flawed human and perfection. The proviso is that you are truly attempting to do your best as a flawed being. You can’t mug and murder a lady and expect entrance into Heaven because God forgives you. You must make efforts to mend your ways to the best of your ability at the time, even if it is insufficient to the crime you committed. Or at least thats the way it was explained to me. Its not a “Get Out of Sin Free” card.

In my honest opinion it would look and sound almost exactly the same as it does now, except more people would watch TV on Sundays.

I see no evidence, none whatsoever, that belief in a higher power makes people behave better. In my experience those who claim to be religious are not one iota more generous, more kind, or more forgiving than those who aren’t.

It is my direct observation that people who are religious are just as likely to lie, cheat, steal, and hurt one another as those who aren’t. Almost nobody, religious or irreligious, is willing to admit to anyone else or themselves that they act badly; they tend to rationalize everything. Going to church seems to have no effect on that.

Euthanasiast:
I concur with robertliguori. Excellent first post. Welcome to SDMB. I hope upu stick around for a while.

Depends on the particular flavor of Christianity. Some Protestant groups have a tenet of “Once Saved, Always Saved.” Of course, it lends itself quite well to the “No True Scotsman” argument, since someone who’s supposedly saved and then transgresses, “obviously” wasn’t really saved…

Well-written , but too long considering the reply would be shorter than the post itself.

  1. Your post is a response to Christianity, not all religions. Plenty of theists have religions which hold them quite accountable for their actions regardless of forgiveness, etc.

  2. Not even all Christian denominations buy the automatic forgiveness thing. Catholicism, for example, believes that good acts are necessary as much as grace for salvation, acknowledgement and penance must be done to atone for one’s sins, plus several other quibbles.

  3. So far as I’m aware, the concept isn’t that God forgives you all your sins. It is that God’s grace makes up the difference between what is your best as a flawed human and perfection. The proviso is that you are truly attempting to do your best as a flawed being. You can’t mug and murder a lady and expect entrance into Heaven because God forgives you. You must make efforts to mend your ways to the best of your ability at the time, even if it is insufficient to the crime you committed. Or at least thats the way it was explained to me. Its not a “Get Out of Sin Free” card.