It would be pointless to argue it absolutely, as those who don't believe in God would be understandably offended at the notion that they can therefore not know morality.
I think it's pretty safe to say that morality can only be objective and fixed if it comes from God. W/o a deity, we determine it ourselves and it fluctuates. Personally, while I attribute it to God, I still say it fluctuates, not in its definition, but in its application.
I think what's essential to morality is the understanding that we don't have to give in to whatever is in our nature. The understanding that we have a choice. That we may have the desire/urge to steal (or whatever else) but that we have the choice not to do so. And the understanding that individual desire is not always good.
(oh crap, and then we have to talk about what good is...)
Aghghgh, what's essential to morality is complicated.
For me a god has nothing to do with it....but what I've described above exists in the belief system of many religions. Not all...but many. And some people believe that a god is involved in giving humans that...essential power... to choose.
There's a question of whether people can behave (/in a way that is perceived to be by others) moral if they aren't religious, and then there's a question of whether right and wrong are objective properties.
The first brings to mind statements like "all atheists are immoral/amoral". Crazy folk aside, I don't think it's unreasonable that intent plays a role in morality above and beyond the actual action (e.g. it's not 'good' if you stop a mugger because you accidentally hit him with a rock you were trying to hit someone else with), and can see how certain beliefs might lead you to think 'good' must come through a belief in a god.
In terms of whether right and wrong can be objective without a god, I think it requires some principle(s) to be necessarily true, be it "suffering = bad" or "what God says = good". The latter statement we take to be true by definition, because god is usually defined as omnipotent. Whether the former can be considered true by definition in the same way, I'm not sure... I think there's an element of self-justification in both.
I think both can form the basis of someone's morality equally well though, all that matters for that is that the person *believes* that the underlying principle is true, regardless of whether that belief is justified or not. I don't think using either is necessarily more flexible, or more likely to be adhered to, in practice.
On Thursday 3/27/14 - 8:59:49 PM Inquizitor2 wrote: most major religions tell their followers don't kill, don't steal, don't lie, don't commit adultery. so in a sense, i'd say it is essential to a degree.
Most bleach says "Keep out of reach of small children" therefore bleach is essential to keeping things out of reach of children.
Most societies figure out what is helpful and what is harmful to the society itself. Those societies encourage what is helpful, and discourage what is harmful (killing, stealing from members of that society, etc.)
Then, social pressure inforces the norms, and they become "morality".
Of course, in all societies, there are those who don't follow the morals of their society.
I'm trying to think of a better way to state my thingymabob (I'm so fantastic with words).
What is essential to morality is the realization that we have a choice in whether to give into our desires or not.
....ugh. That is what I believe is absolutely essential. Before we even get to the issue of what is good and what's not good...we have to realize that we're not a bunch of robots following every whim and desire or running on pure instinct.
By the existence of suffering that is capable of being prevented by our actions.
That's what really guides it for me. That's why I don't buy into bullsh*t "oh, what's good depends on the society". No, there are societies that are actively causing harm and labeling it as "good". There are a lot of ignorant and corrupt societies, groups, individuals.
The harm remains observable to those who aren't ignorant of it. Without ignorance and corruption, I believe we would all agree completely on what is good and what is bad because, in that state, we would all see where there is suffering (lack of ignorance) and we would work to prevent it (lack of corruption).
(and I also think that it's very near impossible for us to come to that state because it's 99.999% impossible to rid the world of ignorance/corruption...but....there you go)
(Also, I am always still working on my own ignorance, of course....)
I'm not sure about other religion families, but the Abrahamic religions appear to have considered the two seperate concepts at one point. In fact, you could make a pretty valid argument that the entire point of those religions is that man chose morality over God.
The interesting thing is that, in every era, you can find people who oppose what is wrong...even in cases of a society being largely morally corrupt and labeling that thing as "right".
You can find people who were not sexist, not racist, people who cared for the welfare of animals, people who opposed unfair usage of the death penalty...you can always find these people (if you have enough record of them).
I've read some really amazing accounts of people in the 18th century who were what I mentioned above.
And it's these people who first manage to break free from ignorance that we have to thank for managing to affect society at large, to lower the levels of ignorance.
Slavery is a pretty easy one: it was immoral even when we didn't realize it and thought otherwise. But there are other examples where I'm sure I would accept a sliding scale, that what was moral at some point in the past isn't any more based on new info and understanding.
W/o attributing morality to a deity, I think morality has to be subjective, at least in our perception of it. If two different cultures have conflicting morals, how do we reconcile that w/o some higher authority? Maybe that's not a problem and it's okay for conflicting morals to co-exist, or maybe there is a process for sorting out the conflict, but if they're absolute, it has to be determined externally.
Er, and I don't mean that they were just in the 18th century...just that I've specifically read about tons of people in that century and I can say for sure that there were many who I would consider good...and that these people didn't necessarily follow what was popular or accepted.
These kinds of people have certainly existed in every era....but I wonder if humankind at large is developing over time....or perhaps it's due to the larger spread of information...something like...just as technology is becoming more advanced and widespread and we're also becoming more advanced at being good (as a whole)....over time.
But what's good has always been good...and that it also might need to be discovered to some extent.
"If two different cultures have conflicting morals, how do we reconcile that w/o some higher authority?"
I'd say that one of the cultures is wrong and that which culture is wrong can be determined by examining which culture is causing the highest amount of harm.
But, in some cases, it is difficult to decide how to measure that sort of thing and sometimes defining what counts as harm can be difficult.
Difficult to exactly quantify but I really don't think it's impossible. I also don't think specifically calculating a number of harmed people is necessary when it comes to an individual judging morality...
On Friday 3/28/14 - 9:39:39 AM shakira2 wrote: But what's good has always been good...and that it also might need to be discovered to some extent.
If that's the case, morality has to exist somewhere outside of humanity. I suppose you could call that by another name if you don't believe in God, but then, like I said in my first post, not believing in God kind of precludes the possibility of attributing *anything* to God. That's the role God would fill, though.
I'll add that even in a construct involving God, it still requires human discernment and application. To the naked eye, then, a faith-based shift based on a new understanding of God's word and any secular shift based on new contexts may not really be different.