View Poll Results: Are Secular Ethics Possible?

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Thread: Is Religion Needed For Morality? Are Secular Morality and Ethics Possible?

  1. #11
    Senior Member Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Secular Morality

    Of course ethics is possible without morality. Iris Murdoch, Plato, Aristotle, MacIntyre, Kant, Schopenhauer - I dare say most philosophers on ethics are secular. That said, I do draw a distinction between ethics and morality, like Moody Lawless does.
    All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream at night, in the dusky recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams, with open eyes, to make it possible.

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    Senior Member Drakkar's Avatar
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    Re: Secular Morality

    I can't think of any form of morality that doesn't have some sort of religious foundation. Even though the United States tries to create a government that is secular, it's ways can be still traced back to Anglo-Saxon law, Roman law, and a little of Greek law, which were all theocratic civilizations in a way (AS=Heathenism, Greek=Hellenism, Roman=Paganism) I digress, but my point is that the founders of American law had tried to make something secular, but were religious which formed a Christian bias in their writing. Philosophers also have this ingrained bias, even though they try to distance themselves from it by writing about totally unheard of ideas. A person's life is constantly bombarded with social codes and the like which are a byproduct of the majority's religion or philosophy. I would appreciate some feedback if someone disagrees with me, but currently I really don't believe that it is possible to have a morality that is completely secular.

  3. #13
    Senior Member Moody's Avatar
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    Re: Secular Morality

    Quote Originally Posted by Hårgalåten View Post
    I can't think of any form of morality that doesn't have some sort of religious foundation. Even though the United States tries to create a government that is secular, it's ways can be still traced back to Anglo-Saxon law, Roman law, and a little of Greek law, which were all theocratic civilizations in a way (AS=Heathenism, Greek=Hellenism, Roman=Paganism)
    Roman Law was certainly secular, as was the law of Greek city states like Sparta.

    I digress, but my point is that the founders of American law had tried to make something secular, but were religious which formed a Christian bias in their writing. Philosophers also have this ingrained bias, even though they try to distance themselves from it by writing about totally unheard of ideas. A person's life is constantly bombarded with social codes and the like which are a byproduct of the majority's religion or philosophy. I would appreciate some feedback if someone disagrees with me, but currently I really don't believe that it is possible to have a morality that is completely secular.
    I think you are on slippery ground if you suggest that because religion is very influential then everything is therefore religious.
    Philosophy is about making distinctions, not collapsing them.

    Clearly, a morality which claims to be God given and derive directly from the word of God is religious morality.

    This cannot apply to a secular morality seen in the form of the laws made by states etc.,

    The biggest difference is that secular law can be changed or ammended whereas religious law is unchangeable and inviolable because it is the word of God.

    It is impossible to change God's law; therefore all law which can be changed is secular.

    Muslims today regard the laws of the states they live under as "man-made law" and say that it does not have the same sway over them as does "God's law" - so there is a very real distinction to be made.

    It may also lead to the realisation that those who put God's law before that of the state are living in constant treason and could be expelled upon that basis alone.
    Why are there beings at all, & why not rather nothing?
    [Leibniz/Heidegger]

  4. #14
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    Re: Secular Morality

    Quote Originally Posted by Brunnhilde View Post
    Can such a thing as secular morality exist? Is it possible to have ethics that do not have roots in religion? .. Also, is there any real reason for Atheists to fear death since they do not believe any judgement awaits them?
    Secular morality is quite possible. Hinduism has kept personal belief and 'dharma' (duty/right action) separate. Only the second is essential for all, the first depends on what the person considers as the truth. As a result, I am an atheist, but 'dharma' is still necessary for me (Hinduism has no word for religion). An atheist should realize that death is a fact, will happen to every person (at least during the present Century), it is painless (when brain's oxygen supply diminishes, it shuts off the pain centers to save oxygen), and if it is any help, no atom of a person's body is destroyed and none stops its usual functions.

  5. #15
    Sees all, knows all Chlodovech's Avatar
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    Re: Secular Morality

    Quote Originally Posted by Moody
    I think you are on slippery ground if you suggest that because religion is very influential then everything is therefore religious.
    Not so when you view life as an organic movement (in contrast to viewing only your folk as an organic whole, for instance), where all components matter - where you don't fragmentize and make distinctions that aren't there, ... they're all human made.

    And so I'd love to see life affirming laws and a life affirming culture.

    Maybe I'm miscomprehending you, Moody, but this is how I see it:

    Life is true mystery. It's larger than me and you. So it's the subject of (mystery) religion.

    If 'reality as we know it' would be a game - if my folk wouldn't be in a lifely way holy, but say - nothing more than a digital animation on a computerscreen somewhere in the backwaters of nothingness, I wouldn't care much for any component of the program called life.

    Nor would I care for my folk - and Skadi, if Skadi matters only sometimes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Moody
    Philosophy is about making distinctions, not collapsing them.
    Not my kind of philosophy. I don't believe in fragmentarization or relativism.

    Philosophy is an act of life, it happens within life, and it can not happen outside of life, well, not for us mere mortals, anyway.

    A philosophy can be anti-religious or focussing on very practical problems - that's right - however, every thing we experience happens within the larger mystery, life. Life outlasting us all. And influencing us all. Thus influencing the future.

    Life: It's God or nothing. It's only meaningful as a whole. That's why an ideology or a religion should cover it like that: fully.

    You can't go and say, that part of life matters, and this not. It matters to itself.

    But God doesn't need to come out of the clouds. Even if we assume that God is dead, His creation still lives on.

    I could approve of a political program without it mentioning God. I recall how Fascist Italy had some class/academy (?) dealing with fascism as some sort of reflection of life - a mystical fascism class? - alas, I don't recall enough.

    You don't have to be religious or theistic or what have you, I think - but if you can't judge life as the most metaphysical event and 'place' we know - well worth fighting for, worth dying for every inch - you and/or your movement is very time bound, of lesser value - and will be defeated - even with ease.

    Life is GOD enough to live it virtuously, according to your belief system - 'cause you can't do anything more than not letting yourself down, I think - and to strike at death where you see it, even in its root.
    "If we were going to stand in darkness, best we stand in a darkness we had made ourselves.” ― Douglas Coupland, Shampoo Planet

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    Re: Secular Morality

    I have a friend who has a one sentence code of morality: "Never f--- your friends." Actually, this is a little harder than it sounds if you live it. Lots of little situations come up, shades of morality, which make doing this an actual choice which at first seems like it would never have to come to that.

    Since being exposed to NS philosophy, I judge each action in terms of Honor, Duty, and Loyality. Of course, all three interact and occasionally make things hard. Usually though, it is a simple matter. For instance, cheating on your wife or girlfriend violates all three and so is a definate no-no. Sometimes a person has to leave a relationship, such as a job, if they are the ones asking you to violate your principles. There are whole organizations set up to purposefully violate this Big Three, the NSA, CIA and Department of Justice under George Bush come to mind. If caught working in one of these organizations with knowledge of what you are really doing, the only honorable course of action is resignation. The same would go for companies like Enron which defrauded millions of people. Maybe you guessed that I am unemployed.

  7. #17
    Senior Member Moody's Avatar
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    Re: Secular Morality

    Quote Originally Posted by Parsifal View Post
    Not so when you view life as an organic movement (in contrast to viewing only your folk as an organic whole, for instance), where all components matter - where you don't fragmentize and make distinctions that aren't there, ... they're all human made.

    Those who believe in God believe that God made the world, for example, and laid down immutable God-given laws.

    However, it is said in some religions that God also gave man free-will.

    From the latter derives the distinction between man-made laws [secular laws made by man through his own free-will] and God's laws [religious and imposed by God].

    The laws of rank ordering and Separation aren't "fragmentation".

    Indeed, neglecting to uphold the laws of separation leads to dissolution and fragmentation as western society demonstrates.

    An army without a rank system is chaotic.

    Laws of separation can be construed as either having been made by God or made by man, depending on the type of culture/society belief system.

    Of course secular laws can exist within a religious society just as religious laws can exist within a secular society. It is about making the distinction between them.

    This brings in the notion of conscience; do you obey a secular law or do you flout it because your conscience tells you otherwise [and could have a conscience that was religious or secular].

    And so I'd love to see life affirming laws and a life affirming culture ...
    ... Life is true mystery. It's larger than me and you. So it's the subject of (mystery) religion.
    I presume you are saying that everything is religious and nothing is 'secular', so your real answer to the question 'can there be secual morality?' would be that there is no such thing as secularism.
    According to this position, secularists, agnostics, atheists etc., are all deluded, I would guess.

    However, this creates a difficulty with religions.
    The wide variety of differing religions have different laws which often conflict with each other.
    Combine this with the huge variety of what are called [by most people] secular moralities [although to you I suppose these would be 'religious' too] and you have very confusing array of different do's and dont's.
    According to you all these conflicting moralities are religious and therefore demand to be acknowledged as religious truth.

    So what morality do you follow?
    And on what basis do you make that choice?

    Aren't you yourself forced to 'fragment'?

    Or can you be all things to all gods?

    If 'reality as we know it' would be a game - if my folk wouldn't be in a lifely way holy, but say - nothing more than a digital animation on a computerscreen somewhere in the backwaters of nothingness, I wouldn't care much for any component of the program called life.
    Nor would I care for my folk - and Skadi, if Skadi matters only sometimes.
    Are you saying that secularism/atheism/agnosticism [which are not presumably "holy"] are meaningless?
    Are you saying that atheists care nothing for their folk?

    Are all human beings then "holy"?

    Are all religions equally "holy" to you [including Voodoo]?

    Are all religions then relative?

    Do you accept all religions as being correct?


    I don't believe in fragmentarization or relativism.
    So what religion is the correct one - and where does that leave all the rest if you are not a relativist?

    Philosophy is an act of life, it happens within life, and it can not happen outside of life, well, not for us mere mortals, anyway.
    When you say "us mere mortals" the implication is that you believe that there is another order of beings [presumably 'immortals'] who would then exist outside of human life.
    Why can't those immortals philosophise?
    Perhaps human life is the result of an immortal being philosophising.

    A philosophy can be anti-religious or focussing on very practical problems - that's right - however, every thing we experience happens within the larger mystery, life. Life outlasting us all. And influencing us all. Thus influencing the future.
    Have any of life's mysteries ever been solved?
    I think they have.
    For example, men spent a huge amount of time wondering what would happen when you came to the 'edge' of the world - would you fall off? And where was the edge of the world?
    The mystery was solved when it was discovered that the world was in fact, a sphere.
    Was that mystery solved by God or by secular science?
    Do you think that further mysteries will be solved in the future?

    Life: It's God or nothing. It's only meaningful as a whole. That's why an ideology or a religion should cover it like that: fully.
    There are secular ideologies which are holisitic too; you can believe in the whole if you want, without believing in a God or in a religion.

    You can't go and say, that part of life matters, and this not. It matters to itself.
    Why not? If life is about living as you say, then we all - by the simple fact of not being able to be everywhere in the universe at once - value one part of life more than we do the others.
    No single person is able to care about the "whole" in practical terms - he can say that he does, but in reality he only cares about those things which are within his own circle of influence.

    So a sensible outlook is not take an absolutist 'either/or', "all or nothing" view, but to see life as a matter of levels, or 'strata'.

    We all can operate only on certain levels due our natural shortcomings.

    This does not mean that the other levels don't exist - of course they do - but they are not of our immediate concern.

    Therefore, in truth, we all [even the Pope] act as if only a "part of life matters".

    Once we own up to that then we can start to get our own house in order.

    But God doesn't need to come out of the clouds. Even if we assume that God is dead, His creation still lives on.
    This assumes that God is separate from his creation ... wouldn't you call this 'fragmented'?

    I could approve of a political program without it mentioning God...
    You don't have to be religious or theistic .... but if you can't judge life as the most metaphysical event and 'place' we know - well worth fighting for, worth dying for every inch - you and/or your movement is very time bound, of lesser value - and will be defeated - even with ease.
    Well, I don't necessarily disagree with that, but the facts are that when it comes to "fighting" the victors are always those who have the firmest grasp of reality, the better tactics, the better strategies and the better weapons.
    The better science, in other words.
    Secular states have a habit of winning.

    Life is GOD enough to live it virtuously, according to your belief system - 'cause you can't do anything more than not letting yourself down, I think - and to strike at death where you see it, even in its root.
    Do you mean 'GOD' as you have written, or 'GOOD'?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Solar Wolff View Post
    Since being exposed to NS philosophy, I judge each action in terms of Honor, Duty, and Loyality.
    Would you describe that philosophy as secular or religious?
    Why are there beings at all, & why not rather nothing?
    [Leibniz/Heidegger]

  8. #18
    Auf der Durchreise
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    AW: Secular Morality

    Everyone can follow rules, no matter if he's religious or not, so everyone can follow a moral code. The only difference is how this code is justified. For the religious person the foundation of his morals is divine - guaranteed by prophecy, inspiration, visions etc. - while the non-religious person can pick from a variety of possible foundations: purely rationalistic (like in modern systems theory), hedonistic (like in De Sade), political-utopian (like in Communism), folkish-racial (National Socialism) etc.

    I think that only the latter class of secular alternatives really enable someone to follow moral rules in a genuinely ethical way because only non-religious moral foundations are open to rational debate while religious foundations are not.

    The religious person replaces justification and argument with belief, thereby turning philosophical discussion into a form of apologetics. This is not only boring and intellectually sterile but the exact opposite of being ethical. The religious person may develop some kind of "instinct" or stimulus-response-mechanism that keeps him within the bounds of his dogma, but he never reaches a point where he can actually justify his actions and discuss them with a free mind and in an open-ended manner. It always comes down to "God said X, so I may not do Y", "I did A, the bible says that B is ok, and A is a case of B" etc.

    So, in conclusion I not only claim that secular morality is possible but that it is the only true (i.e. rational) form of morality. Religious morality is false, unethical, irrational morality.

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    Re: Secular Morality

    Yes, Moody, my beliefs stem only from the secular. The "do unto others" commandment seems secular to me even though it is supposed to have come from God. To me, the whole morals and ethics thing is about how we treat other people. Within your own framework, this has to be consistant and fair or you have no morals or ethics. This doesn't even mean we have to treat all people the same. It only means consistancy within your particular framework.

  10. #20
    Senior Member Patrioten's Avatar
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    Sv: Secular Morality

    I'm not sure if one can be moral without being religious to some extent. I think most people need a god in the sky of some sort in order for them to follow an advanced moral codex which goes beyond the primitive empathy towards other people.

    I can't rule out the possibility that i was influenced by religious ideas as a young child (although the only exposure in that case was going to a christianity based day care as well as being a scout for some years.) Today i am not a believer because i don't think it adds up, religion and all.

    Clear is anyhow that i have since a quite young age thought of myself as being "superior" compared to my peers, i've held such ideas such as right and wrong, natural and unnatural, immoral and moral in high regard as well as a belief in what would best be described as honor (not trying smoking or snuff is a silly but suitable example, i can remember how i thought less of my friends who did use snuff, that they were weaker mentally compared to myself. And my early facination with wars and the idea of fighting for one's country which still holds me in its grip today).

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