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A morality/Amorality

November 20, 2008

One thing that always…got me…was people’s motivations…motivations to be moral. Or even bigger: their motivations to live.

I think, or at least I sincerely like to hope, that people underestimate themselves. It sincerely pains me when people ask, “How are you moral without a belief in god?”

Are you saying you would not be “good” without threat of hell or without prize of heaven?

No, really. I don’t murder because I don’t have it in me. I don’t have it in me not because I’m “afraid of prison” or because I’m “afraid of hell,” but because I recognize that…murder isn’t a nice thing to do. I have empathy for others, so I don’t want to stomp all over people (especially not in such a huge way that murder is). It makes my head tilt for someone to say, “Without god, I’d do who knows what!” I’d certainly hope that even without God, you wouldn’t go on rampages.

Quite frankly…with or without god…I’d still be doing what I do now. And I think that, for a lot more people than who would like to admit, the same is true. It is a doctrine called apatheism, wherein we realize that it doesn’t matter if we believe or don’t believe, or if our belief or lack of belief is even true, but we recognize that our belief makes no meaningful difference on our lives.

Apatheism works whether God actually does exist or if he does not, so there’s no need to necessarily go into proofs for either theism or atheism. The idea, however, is that regardless of the true state of God’s existence (which, for all intents and purposes, is unknown), our belief for or against is irrelevant because God is too far away from us to affect our actions.

I think this relates well to common experience. If we decide to change something in our life, it isn’t necessarily for heaven or for god. It’s for some practical effect in the here and now, first of all. So when people become believes, they aren’t necessarily automatically motivated by belief to throw their life in completely for God. We see that even believers will sin…so it seems like their belief cannot inspire them to become goody two-shoes overnight. Instead, the church notoriously tries to cultivate this idea that if we test certain principles of the gospel, we will see effects of it in our life. So, “faith” becomes, in a first usage, a kind of spring point that allows us to try things even though we have no clue if they will work out. Someone might be incredulous about the Word of Wisdom and how follow it will have any positive impact on his life, but with faith he can just try it without any evidence for or against it.

But this faith isn’t meant to forgo future evidence. When someone tests a gospel principle, he is looking for confirmation that it works out. And if it doesn’t…oops. The church would like people to endure to the end, even without temporal evidence, but people don’t really tend to work in this kind of manner…and the church knows it…”for now we see through a glass, darkly.”

I guess that’s where *true* faith would come. True faith should allow people to continue walking even though they can’t see past the horizon of death…true faith would allow people to believe in an afterlife they have no evidence of, to believe in eternal blessings they have no evidence of, to believe in their warm fuzzy feelings that confirm these things over others’ warm fuzzy feelings that confirm other things or in others cold empty feeling that dispel things. It seems rare.

I don’t really have that kind of faith. I’m not living for what comes after the horizon of death (which I have no evidence to believe is anything but a great nothingness). So what puzzles me again are theistic motivations to live…they ask, “How can you live without having a purpose in life? How can you live thinking that after you die, you’re dead?”

How can you not? If this is the only life you have, then it’s of the utmost importance to make the most of it! If there is no shadowy figure determining what your life purpose is, then you are even more empowered to determine it for yourself (face the existentialist crisis head on!) This is not a case of, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” because “eating” and “drinking” and “being merry” alone will not make the most of life. But at the same time, rejecting life and never eating, drinking, or being merry — all for the hopes of an idealized afterlife — also isn’t making the most of life.


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  1. Faith of my Father, part 2 « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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