Always Seemed Self Explanatory

Because it’s Easter Sunday, it seems like the right time to comment on the perennial stupidity that only those who believe in a higher power are capable of being good moral agents.  The idea stems from the idea that we silly human beings wouldn’t know what was moral if we weren’t told so by gods/spirits/whatever-other-supernatural-force-you-happen-to-believe-in.

Now, I don’t want this to be overly long because I’m doing laundry and I really don’t want to bother making it more complex.  But what issues of morality boil down to is always at the core a simple question:

Why not hurt people?

Different groups have their own answers for this question.  Philosophers in various groups have devoted decades of writing to this shit, all rationalizing, analyzing, etc. but I believe that there’s usually deep down a simple answer to the simple question.  Some examples are listed:

  • Devout members of major religious groups:

Because (our version of) God doesn’t want us to, and we will be punished if we do.  We want to avoid punishment.

  • Utilitarianists:

Because hurting people generally harms the greater group as a whole, and we want to improve conditions for the whole.

  • Ethical egoists (aka crazy people and devotees of Ayn Rand):

Hm, that’s a good question, actually.  You know, I was thinking the other day…

  • Athiests/agnostics/other rational people:

Because it would hurt people.

All groups are allowed to think and say what they will, that’s one of the wonders of our republic, one I defend and admire.  However, I won’t refrain from criticizing those who insist that others who demonstrably behave morally are incapable because they don’t belong to your faith-based system.  It’s arrogant, disrespectful and obvious bullshit*.  I’ve known any number of non-religious people who are good, admirable and moral people.

Speaking for myself personally, I’d much rather be surrounded by those who don’t hurt people simply because it would hurt people.  It’s always seemed to me that if you can’t honestly answer the morality question with “because it would hurt people”, you’re a little bit of a sociopath (especially true for egoists).

* There are also those who say that you secretly believe in their god, but pretend not to/reject it.  That’s also disrespectful and arrogant.
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