A World With No 'higher' Moral Or Ethical Authority

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.

It seems to me the key word in the OP is “authority.” I don’t believe that any kind of authority, whether mundane or “higher” tends to make people any better at all. Societies which are extremely authoritarian (fascism, communism, nazism) may behave in truly heinous ways whether they appeal to a god as Italian fascists and Nazis did, or not, as communists did.

I don’t think ethics or morals come from any authority, but from the natural desire of human beings to live in harmony with their tribe. Individuals who have a stronger desire for personal supremacy than for harmony will behave unethically or immorally according to the mores of their tribe. Fear of a super authority clearly doesn’t stop them any more than fear of the civil or national authority does. That’s why in a country like the USA where the vast majority profess some kind of religion there are nevertheless more than two million people incarcerated for crimes. Higher moral or ethical authority hasn’t made a noticeable difference.

By the way, welcome to the boards, Euthanasiast. Even without additional hamster food, another thoughtful poster is always welcome!

Hmmm…let’s see - Instead of consulting a “rule book”, we would have to use our intellect to consider the consequences of our actions. We would need to consider the feelings, desires, and needs of our fellow human beings, and how our actions affect them. We would have no ready-made rationalization for any action we chose, but instead would have to seriously contemplate what we do.

I think it might look pretty good.:slight_smile:

Welcome to the boards, Euthanatist.

I think the following quote will make a good reply. It was a response to a Christian defending God-based morality.

Isn’t that already how it works? Since the United States is the country with the biggest nuclear arsenal, do you think God-belief makes us less likely to try to dictate to others how to live, or more likely?

Here’s a hint:


Let me point out one minor thing. For all the rules a system may specify, the most important one is always the same: You must follow the rules.

If you can get people to abide by this rule of rules, then your goal has been effectively accomplished, and it really doesn’t matter whether the whole affair is religious, cultural, political, or whatever it may be. Indeed, the psychological mechanisms used to produce obedience are pretty uniform, with variation only appearing in the particular regulations people invent.

In response to your question as it is currently worded……Not believing in the existence of god does not mean that a god does not exist. Nor does it mean that people do not know that a god exists, some might. So in your scenario there could be theists and/or others who know that god exists and therefore it would not affect them.

The question is about believing, not knowing. What Laurie certainly seems to be after is “what would the world be like if nobody believed in god,” not the difference between knowing and believing.

No need to imagine, just look out the window. Most people seem to swallow whatever the dominant culture feeds them.

Sure, just like they do now.


Sure, just like they do now. As blowero suggested, the situation you lay out is not hypothetical; except for the part about no one believing in God, it’s real. Many individuals and cultures use belief in God to help sell their ideas, but they’re still selling their ideas.

Same here. Religion has done some good things, but in my view, the bad far outweighs the good–especially since the good could be accomplished by people of good will without the superstition.

Origianlly posted by ** Marley23**

I think Laurie should have included, “And no one has any knowledge of a gods existence.”…in the OP question,

Also it doesn’t eliminate our lack of knowledge and the mysteries of this existence. As Kant has said there is an aspect of thought which is not reducible to thought, i.e. the act of “knowing” cannot be reduced to the status of an object of thought or an idea since it is that which produces the idea. In other words what it is that knows (and possibly what thinks) is unknown. It is affirmed that something exists even though that “something” is not that which is making the affirmation.

Belief in gods is not just based in fear, it’s derive and born from unexplainable events and mysteries of human perception and consciousness, and a curiosity to “know” and discover which is applied to all human endeavors.

Besides that, what does it actually mean to “not believe in god or any higher power”? What are the ramifications? Does it eliminate some aspects of human intelligence? Would we still have our capacity to wonder? What is “wondering” without believing in the possibility that some of those “wonderings” might be true?

If we can’t create without wondering, can we wonder without believing?

We would all be atheists in foxholes.

What’s intelligent about deciding that your speculations are true? Faith is not a display of intelligence.

I’d rather think so. Wondering is different from believing in that the latter involves coming to a conclusion. If you believe in something, I’m not sure what there is to wonder about. So at most I’d say there’s no connection.

I’m pretty sure you’re misapplying this cliche.

You mean a world where people actually took personal responsibility for the consequences of their actions instead of being able to shift the blame off onto an invisible spirit?

Paradise … .

I don’t see how.

Of course. If anything, without the easy answer that “God did it”, the ability to wonder would be enhanced.

Wonder is “astonishment, admiration, or marvel”. To simply explain every astonishing phenomenon by saying “God did it” is a far more mundane way to look at it, IMO.

Yes, it is possible to wonder without positing supernatural entities.

What Marley23 said.

No offense, but this is more or less begging the question.

If you assume that there is no God or other transcendent entity on which to base a morality, referring to any act as an “atrocity” is meaningless.

Either you can make a rational defense of the value(s) on which you base a morality - human happiness, survival of the species, whatever - or you are choosing the value(s) arbitrarily. Unless you assume the validity of morality beforehand, you cannot establish that any act is immoral or otherwise.

If you prove there is no God, what difference does it make what I do, atrocity or not? Sooner or later we will both be dead, and nothing we do now will make any difference. Thus trying to label one set of actions as “moral” and another as an “atrocity” is a distinction without a difference.

Atheism necessarily implies nihilism. Or to assume the validity of some transcendant value on which you base a morality - which is close to what is called by theists “an act of faith”.

Thus a world with no higher moral or ethical authority is a world with no morality at all. Absent God, the word “morality” is a meaningless noise, no different from a sneeze or a burp.



Not necessarily, Shodan. Maybe we wouldn’t want to commit an atrocity because, oh, I don’t know, we don’t want to cause someone else pain?

But that assumes that causing someone pain is immoral. Until you establish that there is such a thing as morality or some valid moral standard, you can want or not want whatever you like - you still haven’t created any meaning for the term.


Lemme ask you this, Shodan-do you like feeling pain? Why not?

Do you like it when your loved ones suffer pain? Why not?

I guess it’s a good thing there is religion–otherwise Shodan would be picking us off, one by one, with a butcher’s knife!