Tim Bo has the rather nice honour of being one of the nicest people to ask a question. And he deserves an answer. The other place was getting bogged down in distraction so he gets a decent one here.
You’ve answered all those questions about morals, but yours and all atheist morals still confuse me quite a bit. To be honest with you I can’t fathom on any level why, if you honestly, genuinely believe that this is the only existence you will ever have, if this is the only thing you will ever do, ever be conscious of, ever experience, why wouldn’t every atheist live the most hedonistic life possible?
And there are some who do think that way. That’s their path.
You only get time on this planet and then you simply stop. You cease to exist. Human beings are a social animal, it is our strength. We are individuals but we are not alone because we associate with each other.
We CAN be hedonistic, but that’s not all there is to life. People see value in different things.
To a young teenager at 3:00 PM on a Friday Afternoon? That 60 minutes cannot go fast enough. To me writing an exam? That one hour goes too fast! A child on Christmas eve would do anything to throw away those hours between bedtime and presents. But if his mother lay dying then even a single second would be beyond value. And that’s just time! A method by which we time our lives and arguably our deaths.
There is simply more to living than pleasure. Pain and suffering defines us too you know. Experiences make you who you are and that includes the bad.
I would not be who I am without all the pain and suffering. I have learnt compassion because I suffered.
You come to life empty handed and what you take through is from your experiences and what you learn from others. Different people will teach you different things. In seeking only pleasure and not learning what you can achieve you shut yourself off from experience. There are different kinds of pleasure out there. The rush of a kiss is pleasure, so is the taste of a well cooked meal and so is the feeling of achievement.
Why wouldn’t you consume every moment possible with whatever sexual experiences you can have, take whatever drugs make you feel good, take money from any person you wish, “get rid” of anyone who bothers you, etc…
Well despite all rumours to the contrary, even I need a break in the middle of my sexual sextravaganzas.
You could live a self destructive life, but as I said. There are nuances to pleasure. Some people can have this sort of life. It isn’t what I want though. I found pleasure in a loving girlfriend and indeed (and not to blow my own trumpet here) there are many sexual experiences there in addition to the love and companionship. Just because you love each other doesn’t mean you can’t have an exciting sex life. One doesn’t have to be bedding random people every night in order to have excitement you know!
You could live such a life, but then people stop talking to you and men in blue uniforms with shiny badges come to take you away for being a rather horrid person.
And then your life stops being fun. That’s the stick.
The carrot is to remember that if everyone thought like this we would be in an anarchy. We would not have a society. It is society that lets us live this life. And through society we have found other forms of pleasure. We need wealth to live after all so we acquire it by working. Some of us are lucky enough to work in jobs we enjoy we can find pleasure in that. Some of us find pleasure in the people around us. Some of us have experiences and most of us mix all of the pleasures we can find. So there are atheists who do responsible things but enjoy marijuana and sex too you know.
You can be good and still enjoy the fruits of hedonism. It’s just that people think that sex and drugs somehow provides some ultimate happiness that boring old living cannot match. You find happiness in many things in life and indeed the thing is to try and have experiences rather than simply kill time.
Living is the experience is it not?
Why would you ever work a day in your life? If you genuinely and whole heartedly believe there is nothing at the end of it all, isn’t hard work just a giant waste of this experience?
Because some of us find work rewarding and in order to exist in society we require to trade work for wealth that we can exchange for the things that let us live safely and indeed make us happy.
Why not take what you want, enjoy your experience, and screw those who are affected by it? After all, that might be a crappy attitude to have, but it’s your life and you ought you get as much out of it in the short time you’re here.
On a sensible note? I put it down to risk. It is not in our interest to screw the rules. Oh you can dress it up in fancy gods and the like but honestly in a survival situation do you think a group of people working together is better than one guy?
That one guy screwing over the group may make it big immediately but on the long term he has effectively ruined his good credit and will be shunned “at best” and at worst be effectively removed from society either through ostracisation, prison, execution or banishment.
It’s the same thing we see in online discussion. If you were rude we would not have responded to your question. There would be no discussion. If you were rude enough we may have banned you. A website ban is just an annoyance compared to a ban from society.
It is in our interest to curtail our hedonism to only affect our person rather than others.
You’re really only wasting time worrying about other people’s experience right? Now, before you blow me off as being sarcastic or writing to the extreme I ask you to consider this question carefully. You yourself made the point that your morality is based in treating others the way you wish to be treated (Something Jesus taught us actually). But this stands in stark contrast with the implications of your declared stance. So the question remains, if your morality is not inherent, is not based on your belief system, and actually stands in contrast to it, where does it come from and why do you choose to follow a code of morality that stands in contrast to your belief system?
Jesus was not the first person to bring that concept up. Historically most cultures valued those who behaved like that. In fact treating humans equally is the basis of all social progress in civilisation. The Buddha predates Jesus and the laws of Hinduism predate even Judaism and value such kindness through it’s heroes.
This principle is intrinsic to the development of society. Altruism is a survival trait. Oh in the past it was because altruists were more popular and thus more likely to survive in a group but that’s the thing.
Our survival is linked to the group. Any concept that divides us on a social level harms us. Imagine how much better the USA would have been off if it didn’t spend all that money fighting black rights and for slavery?
I mean this is like suggesting that before the Bible came up with “Thou Shalt Not Kill” everyone went around murdering each other! Which is laughable! Even the anarchy that is kids playing eventually nets them with “laws” in the form of rules of a game. People make laws because laws help people live together by providing a method of dispute resolution.
Now initially the laws didn’t matter. What mattered was everyone following them. So the Aztec’s human sacrifice while wrong to us probably kept everyone on the same page and got society working together. Likewise the whole anti-GLBT stance of Christianity. But we do recognise that all these laws are actually secular in origin and represent the thinking of the time period.
Even recently discovered stone age tribes have rules against murder within the tribe. It’s fine to go off and kill some other dude but NOT within the tribe. Why? Because it reduces survival.
Even the Bible’s thou shalt not kill was not about not killing but about not killing each other. It was perfectly fine to go off and kill some unbeliever or some other tribe.
So the problem here is you are assuming that the ideal moral code comes from a divine source rather than the moral code coming from a secular and logical source and religion merely adopting the local variants at the time.