Ethics and Atheism

May 8, 2008

Some of the earlier posts on this blog dealt with morality, where some theists challenged the possibility of atheist morals, and others questioned the reason atheists should be moral at all. Having discussed those questions theoretically, it might be interesting to revisit them in light of an example. Let’s consider the ethics of blogging and use this blog as the example.

An interesting aspect of blogging is the opportunity to interact with a wide array of people that we might not otherwise ever come across. Some people who post here on this blog are believers, others are skeptics. Some are thoughtful, others are flippant. Some are respectful, others are contemptuous. As one who posts on this blog, what should guide my behavior, regardless of how others behave? Here are a few thoughts:

1) I should treat others as I would have them treat me. However this presumes that others wish to be treated the same way I wish to be treated, but it’s not a bad place to start. In that case, I’ll post thoughtful, respectful comments.

2) I should follow rule one even when others don’t. In face-to-face discussions, this may not be good advice – no one is obligated to endure abuse. But in a blog setting, it’s unlikely that someone’s abusive post, whether intensionally abusive or accidentally abusive, will harm you in any real sense. Other readers will think more poorly of the abuser, and even the group or community that he represents, than of the “abusee.” Which leads me to the next rule:

3) Don’t respond to abuse in kind. There can be many reasons for abusive posts. Some people simply have poor communication skills, or they could even have personality disorders. Others have been abused themselves (maybe they merited the abuse, and maybe not) so they are just taking it out on the next guy. Still others are simply trying to incite their target to be abusive in order to use the target’s abusive reactions to discredit him (see the last part of #2). In the first 2 cases, the kind thing would be to respond with respect. In the 3rd case, the smart thing would be to respond with respect.

What would you add to these?

What if anything does the fact that I, an atheist who has a sense of morality and follows a set of ethics, say about arguments from morality for the existence of God? What if anything does the fact, that my ethics differ from the ethics of other commenters on this blog, say about an “absolute morality” versus a natural sense of morality innate to humans – and therefore what if anything does it say about arguments from morality for the existence of God?

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