Hey yall, first post, dropping this TLDR brain dump to test the room, lol
So I’m betting a lot of Atheists have kinda gone through a similar thing, raised Christian (Christian-Mormon, specifically), thought that god would appreciate me questioning him whereas other people didn’t think so, and ended up landing on the idea that people can define god as whatever initiated the universe – whether it be brahma, jesus, or natural forces – but the actual characterization of what the initiating factor is actually like is what no one can agree on. I’ve come to think about why monotheism has become so popular, and my main hypothesis is that it’s because, in polytheism, people are arguing about which gods are included and which are the best, but in monotheism, people can always say they ‘believe in the same god’ but just ‘disagree on some of the specific traits of that one god’.
For the purposes of morality, I feel that the initiating factor(s) of the universe (probably just crazy maths, 0/0) have not made clear any type of preferences on how we live in that this ‘personal god’ that so many people believe in just allows people to parody and impersonate it without any interjection (whereas I feel that most people would have a preference against being impersonated, at least to their children…? if we are talking about how the Christian god is characterized).
So Practical Moral Relativism. Ultimately, I see morality as being derived from three different factors: priorities, information/education (the information that is held by a person at the time of an action, including experiences), and assessment of authority (that people will act in a way that seems virtuous to whom/what they believe will have the most influence over their ability to thrive).
The way I see it, even if you tell someone that killing is wrong, if they believe that it would benefit their priority, neither telling them nor god will convince them not to do it because why would they choose to benefit people that they care less about? For example, let’s say someone can’t afford a necessary treatment for their child (whom we are assuming is their highest priority in this example, and they love their child more than any person or god they may believe in), but they believe that they could steal the money and get away with it (that the assessment of the authority becomes a non-issue), why would someone choose not to steal the money? Why would they value someone that means nothing to them over their child (that we assume matters to them)? Why would I, a person that they care less about, be an influential opinion in their decision? If they know no other way to get the money they need (the education/information is not a factor that can be considered), it would seem that it’s only for my own personal emotional satisfaction to punish them with jail or beatings for stealing the money because it neither decreases the likelihood that they will see it necessary to steal money in the future in order to serve their priorities, nor does it inherently pay the victim back money just to see them rot or hurt.
Similarly, no matter how much we tell people it is moral to do the right thing, that doesn’t really tell them what the right thing may be in their situation. If we said it’s wrong to kill to a person, and then hypothetically put others in a situation that could be fatal with that person having a red button that says ‘let the people go free’ and a green button that says ‘make them suffer’ in a language they don’t understand, no amount of human free will will be able to magically allow them to know which button they should press. No matter how much they care about human life, their overwhelming urge to help those people will never be able to transcend their inability to figure out the ‘right answer’ by speaking a language they’ve never been exposed to before.
Practical Moral Relativism is the idea that people are going to do whatever they want, regardless of human laws or god’s morality, in favor of their priorities, information, and assessment of authority and that it is much more likely for people to regard anyone else’s morality is being wrong than it is for people to change their priorities for those who are lower on the list. It does acknowledge that people will act in a way they would generally not act if there is a threat of authority (person, group, or perceived force), but it also suggests that people will go against those actions if they think they can get away with it (and that their adherence to the authority is in relationship to the effects they think it will have on their priorities).
So this brings me to the idea of responsibility. Many cultures, specifically governments and religions, call responsibility ‘responsibility’ and that people should pay for their crimes. The punishment is usually not oriented in a way that actually lowers the necessity of the person to act the same way to sustain their priorities, but I rather perceive that it is for the purpose of emotional gratification to see someone who has been labeled as harmful to themselves be harmed. I feel that there is a factor of people’s necessity to lower the likelihood that they will be harmed, so a response is reasonable to expect, but at the same time, I find it unreasonable that someone responds to (here’s this) people doing drugs, for example, with jail time. When they get out, what is the likelihood that they will find it easier to cope with their life? What is the likelihood that their incarceration won’t make them resentful towards the society that treated their inability to find sufficient comfort in their life as a scourge that practically made them deserving of constant threat of physical attack and r*pe, even if to the judges and officers in some cases it was technically indirect? What is the likelihood that their punishment will actually make them less likely to commit again or that it would make them care more about what society wants from them?
I find the Christian idea of ‘free will’ that I have become accustom to being indoctrinated by to be a distasteful attempt to blame other people for one’s own inability to protect one’s self, that’s just me. To say that it’s people’s fault that they are stolen from or injured, I don’t feel that’s necessarily fair. On the other side of the coin, to say that it’s reasonable to expect most people not to be out to harm you – even to go so far as to call it paranoia to assume the worst from everyone around you – I think that is (excuse my French) délirant. I accept the likelihood of any given person being the one to attack me in some way is low, okay, can anyone else accept that the likelihood is never zero? Can anyone accept that it may be someone you don’t know or someone with whom you are intimate?
Is it fair to say that you can have a healthy relationship while also planning for the contingency that the people around you could hurt you in that moment? There is a place to say that may be a lot of anxiety to always need your finger to be on a trigger, okay, it’s not the response that I find to be ideal. I feel that there is equal ground to claim it to be unhealthy to constantly be needing to be in dreamland where everyone is considered to be trustworthy. I feel that it’s okay to be suspicious of people and waiting for them to hurt you while also not needing your heart to be racing all the time.
So responsibility and the utility of it. It’s been a while since I wrote about this so please forgive me if there is more I remember later on, but the idea is that there are multiple implications of responsibility. Firstly, the type of responsibility that people are quick to, which is emotional gratification; it’s the type of responsibility that requires someone to suffer. This is usually tied to the person who is closest to an unsavory event that is not considered a victim. Then, there is the actual causal responsibility which is the decreasing of likelihood that an event will happen again. Finally, there is the fixing responsibility in which someone or some people have to actually set the world back to the state that it was before the event as much as possible.
It’s considered to be most ideal when the suffering is directly tied to the fixing of a problem, and the expectation is that this suffering inherently decreases the likelihood of the event happening again. I understand that actually identifying these different types of responsibility requires more nuance than pointing the finger at the closest person with blood on their hands, but to those (mostly Christians and Abrahamic religious people) who say that Atheism is an attempt to negate responsibility, I will say this. It’s not right for people to tell you that you aren’t allowed to have your opinion, it just doesn’t make that opinion useful. Believing that people have ‘free will’ relieves a cognitive dissonant sense of powerlessness that comes from the awesome strength of the universe’s most measly rock floating around in the backwaters of space somewhere, but the likelihood of decreasing your own suffering. Shouldn’t that come before making people suffer and trying to change people that don’t affect you? Sorry, I’m still upset about what they did to Alan Turing.
So morality, what is it really based on? Well, I propose that there are wants and needs. Needs are only needs because of wants. You can’t need food unless you want to not be hungry and/or you want to stay alive. Let’s say you wonder if you need food, but you are not concerned with your life and food serves no part in any of your goals. In this hypothetical, you don’t care about your hunger. Technically, you don’t need food. Is being alive a need? Well, if you want to see your hamster again, yes, you need to be alive to do that. But inherently, is being alive a need? No, because there is nothing that must follow from being alive.
Let’s say someone wants to be alive, but they don’t want to eat. Well, that sucks, because they need to ingest nutrients (what is loosely referred to as eating here, through drinking or a tube or otherwise) in order to accomplish their want of being alive. Let’s say someone ‘needs’ to be alive, but for no particular reason. They do need to be alive in order to do things they may want to do, but if there is nothing specific they want, being alive is really just a want in itself.
Determining morality based on pain is tricky because you need to feel the burn to get a good workout. It’s difficult because you need to tell people that they are wrong to hurt others, and it may shatter their fragile preconception that whatever they want to do is inherently good because someone or some book told them so. They will say that hurts them.
Determining morality based on wants is easier, I believe, because you can only have the highest likelihood of getting what you want if it is the goal of an internal state. If you want to think of the color blue, you don’t need to change other people to think of the color blue. When you want other people to think of the color blue, the likelihood that you will get what you want decreases dramatically because, even if you can get ninety-nine percent of people to think of the shade of blue you like, there will always be that one person that is like ‘I’m more of a pink fellow, myself’. As well as that, if people feel comfortable, they are usually honest about what they want. No one knows what they need, and even more interestingly to me, I believe that people are unaware of a majority of the suffering they are going through. It’s related to expectations, repression, and denial.
To say that everyone deserves whatever they want from everyone else is not really how I feel. More accurately, I feel that people should be allowed to want what they want and that people should be able to choose whether to engage in consensual transactions with them, but be under no obligation to provide that to them without getting something that is agreed to in return*. (There is an asterisk here for being a parent because parents force people to exist, but this is a point that should be discussed in more detail somewhere other than in this specific post, maybe a comment chain or something if that’s what yall want to talk about). The most essential right that people must have under these premises is the right to leave. In a given country, if someone tells you that you can’t be gay, you’re dependent on the rest of the people to not agree so much with that person that they all band together against you. If a person can leave that country (no one should have to) then that person has the option of what they feel will best support their priorities. I’ve found that you can’t really expect reality to do anything for you, but I do feel that the least people can do is understand why others put in so much effort to escape them. The right to leave is pretty much the most fundamental factor in negotiating power. Any party that does not have the right to leave a situation basically loses all negotiating power because of that fact, and in turn, anything can be expected from them without recompense. Alternatively, if someone is guaranteed the right to leave, people will be able to find a group where they are considered to be morally acceptable, and they will hurt the people around them relatively less than if they are forced to stay in a group that is preemptively inclined against them in the first place.
Sorry for the book! Thoughts?