Can an atheist be a moral person?
I have seen plenty of my fellow GOP members say no. I say bullshit. As an atheist and a moral being, I can say without reservation that an atheist can be, and most are, moral people. There is a key difference. We do not base our morality on the dictates of a higher power, but on our own conscience, our own sense of right and wrong, and our own convictions, reasoned and arrived at through reflection, experience, thought and consideration.
Speaking for myself – and I presume to speak only for myself, in itself a moral decision – I do not need a higher power to tell me what the right way is to behave. I already know the difference between right and wrong. I live a moral life not because someone or something else requires me to, but because I choose to do so, because it is the right thing to do. I have distinct ideas on how a moral person should comport themselves in a free, moral society. Moreover, I have very distinct ideas on how human society should conduct itself, morally. How do I define right and wrong? Conducting yourself in a moral manner is right. Conducting yourself against accepted codes of moral behavior is wrong.
On what things do I, as a moral person, base my morality? I base morality on that highest of human conditions, the only one that truly reflects the concept of natural rights: Liberty. I base morality on the fundamental right to the fruits of one’s own effort: Property.
Remember that: Liberty and Property.
For a person that prizes liberty and property above all other things, what constitutes morality?
A moral person accepts responsibility for his or her own actions and decisions. If a person chooses to start a business and in so doing accept personal financial risk, they deserve not only the fruits of their effort should they succeed but also the responsibility of the consequences of their errors in judgment should they fail. If a person chooses to have one, three or nine children, they, not their neighbors, are responsible for clothing, feeding and educating those children. If a person chooses to drink to excess or to use harmful drugs for recreation, then that person is solely responsible for any health issues that arise from their poor decisions. To quote the Old Man again: “You got yourself into it. You get yourself out of it.” The result of responsibility is liberty. To put it simply: You are free to make your own decisions, to live your own life as you see best, because in the end that life is yours and no one else’s.
A moral person takes care of their family. This goes hand in hand with the principle immediately above, that of accepting responsibility for your own actions and decisions. Having and raising children is a choice, and in making that choice you accept responsibility for the little lives that come along in that process. You accept the responsibility to house them, clothe them, feed them, protect them and educate them. You may delegate some of those responsibilities – for example, most of us delegate responsibility for education to the schools, however unwise that may be becoming in recent years – but you cannot morally abdicate those responsibilities, and y ou cannot expect someone else to shoulder the burdens of those responsibilities. Children and the responsibilities that come with them are yours, the product of a choice you made, even if that decision was as fleeting as a one-night drunken hookup. That decision binds you for life in a way that surpasses even marriage – you can divorce your spouse, but you cannot divorce your kids. Another quote from the Old Man, who is now 91, with his five children (including yr. obdt.) in their fifties and sixties and who is still very much our father: “You never, ever stop being a parent.”
A moral person exhibits integrity. There can be no reliable social interaction without it. There is no higher esteem known than being someone with whom a person can enter into an agreement based on a handshake. Integrity is the essential harbinger of trust; trust is the essential aspect of human interaction without which the very foundations of society crumble. Integrity and trust are essential in marriage, in family, in trade, and in social interaction. None of those things are possible without integrity and trust.
A moral person shows consideration towards others. It is popular in this degenerate age to equate ordinary politeness with weakness, but in fact, just the opposite is true. Good manners and consideration are an unmistakable indicator of strength and confidence. A moral person considers the people around him, and incorporates that consideration in his actions. A moral person disagrees politely but firmly when his or her opinions are challenged. A moral person does not take unfair advantage of others, nor does a moral person act carelessly or thoughtlessly. It doesn’t matter if you are driving, watching a movie or eating in a restaurant; a moral person considers other people, so that their actions do not intrude or cause discomfort or displeasure to others around. Now, with that said:
A moral person stands up for themselves and others. As noted immediately above, a moral person shows consideration, but consideration must come with a caveat: There comes a time when even the moral person finds himself interacting with someone who does not deserve that consideration. People who do not reciprocate that consideration do not deserve it. It is morally acceptable to object to an able-bodied person abusing a handicapped parking space. It is morally acceptable to object to rudeness, to foul language or bad manners in public. A violation of civil interaction is an infringement of liberty, and should not be tolerated, but it is the citizenry, not government, who is responsible for rules of personal conduct.
A moral person produces. A moral person contributes to the market. In other words, the moral person works. That work may be creative, it may be something the person loves doing, or it may be repetitive, low- or un-skilled labor. However, the key is productivity; any occupation that produces value is honorable and worthy. As the Old Man is fond of saying, “There are no lousy jobs, only lousy people.” How does one define value? This is trivially easy. If someone is willing to pay you to do the job, you are producing value. The result of producing value is property. To put it simply: If you work, you gain.
Look for Part Two tomorrow, with Rule Five Friday.