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Church, Culture, God, Life

Where Does Your Moral Outrage Come From?

More and more as I’m on-line, Facebook, Twitter, reading news and opinion pieces, I’ve noticed that people seem to suffer from a lot of moral outrage.  Recently it’s been over a law passed in Arizona that would allow businesses, because of a sincerely held religious belief, to refuse service to gay couples.  For example, if you’re a baker, you don’t have to make a wedding cake for a gay couple if your religious beliefs conflict with it.

Without getting into that law specifically I have to ask, what moral code is this outrage based on?  It can’t be religious.  I base this on two factors.  First, generally speaking, the individuals who are outraged (at least the ones I’m talking about here) are at best agnostic, but generally consider themselves atheists.  Secondly, the reason laws like Arizona’s are “bad” in these arguments is partially due to the idea you can’t force your religion on someone else, which you’d be doing if your outrage was based on religion.  So it’s not a religious thing.  So where does the moral outrage come from?

Better yet, where does the morality come from in the first place?

For example, Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame said at the “Reason Rally in 2012, “Rules do not make us moral.  Loving each other makes us moral.”  Mr. Savage has stated he considers himself an atheist so I have to wonder what he means by morals.  I don’t even necessarily disagree with the sentiment in his statement.  I just wonder at what he bases that statement on.  When he says moral, does he mean nice?  Does he mean kind?  Then it might be moral to kill a solitary millionaire (who has no relatives or friends) if you then steal his money and distribute it to those who need it.  I doubt Mr. Savage would agree with that statement but why not?  It does the most “good” in a temporal sense.

Who gets to define what moral is?  Is it consensus?  Should really smart people decide?  How smart is smart enough?  Really there is no good answer.  Morality does not exist outside of religious systems.  That’s not to say that atheists aren’t moral people.  They are.  However their adherence to moral standards (don’t lie, don’t steal, play fair) are inconsistent with their world view.  To be consistent the atheist (or agnostic) must concede that there is nothing wrong with lying, stealing, even murdering outside of the undesirable consequences of getting caught.  A lion isn’t immoral for killing an antelope.  A spider isn’t immoral for eating her young.  It would however be immoral for a woman to eat her baby.  We all recognize this but it is inconsistent with atheism.

Now to my initial question, where does the outrage come from?  It comes from the desire to feel superior.  We want people to act immoral, or to do things that seem immoral to us.  It makes us feel better about ourselves.  You don’t want gay people to marry?  Look at how bad of a person you are.  I am so much better than you.  It’s the same reason Jerry Springer and Maury Povich.  It makes us feel like there are people worse than us.  People we can look down our noses at.  That’s why there is the moral outrage.  It makes us feel better about ourselves.  Which is exactly the opposite of what we need to do.  We need to realize that we are broken creatures in need of a savior.  That’s why Satan uses moral outrage in people, who logically, have no claim to a moral high ground.  If they think they’re better than Christians, they won’t need to consider the message.

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Discussion

8 thoughts on “Where Does Your Moral Outrage Come From?

  1. “Morality does not exist outside of religious systems. ”

    Yes it does. It exist merely with a simple understanding of harm and benefit.

    Posted by NotAScientist | February 25, 2014, 4:59 am
    • But how do you define harm and benefit? To a child a shot is more harm than benefit. Are they right? What about my above example? If a rich man’s money can be taken from him (by force) and given to others is that harm or benefit? It depends on your perspective. And that’s the point. Without an absolute authority to base the answers to such questions you can’t really evaluate harm vs. benefit. It all becomes opinion and preference and those are not what makes up morals because then any action (murder, rape, pedophilia can be rationalized as “moral.”

      Posted by Far Out Madman | February 25, 2014, 7:44 am
      • “But how do you define harm and benefit?”

        Evidence and science. They work wonderfully without ‘perspective’.

        Posted by NotAScientist | February 25, 2014, 8:06 am
      • Ok, if evidence and science works wonderfully how about you apply that to any of the real world examples I provided? How about harvesting the organs from a healthy man to save the lives of 6 others? I can make an argument that does less harm and provides more benefit than allowing the 6 to die so the one man can live. Is that a moral choice? What if you’re one of the 6? What if you’re the one?

        Science can’t answer moral questions. Germany in WW2 used science and evidences in very immoral pursuits. What about eugenics, forced sterilization, etc.? All of those were argued to be morally right based on the overall benefit to society. Are they moral?

        Posted by Far Out Madman | February 25, 2014, 8:32 am
      • “Germany in WW2 used science and evidences in very immoral pursuits”

        No. They used pseudoscience and bigotry.

        Posted by NotAScientist | February 25, 2014, 8:40 am
      • I see you’re ignoring most of what I’m saying. It’s because you don’t want to admit that science is amoral. It has no morals. If I’m wrong please demonstrate that. And Germany did use science. Their attempt to eliminate Jews was not based on science however the horrifying experiments they committed utilized science. The worked from the idea that if you could benefit society at large then harming individuals is unimportant because there is more benefit than harm. You have yet to provide me with any reason why that wouldn’t be true.

        Of course once you establish that (you can’t but if you did) you’d have to demonstrate why harm to any individual is inherently immoral. A lion eating a zebra is not immoral. Why is a man killing another man immoral? What makes men different than other animals? If killing someone else helps you survive (as a lion killing a zebra helps the lion survive) is it moral to do so? Is it immoral?

        Of course at this point I realize that you will just pick one sentence (or sentence fragment) and respond to that rather than the substance of this reply. But I suspect you’re just trolling anyway. If you weren’t there would be more substance to your replies.

        Posted by Far Out Madman | February 25, 2014, 8:52 am
      • ” It’s because you don’t want to admit that science is amoral.”

        Science is amoral. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use it to learn what causes harm.

        “And Germany did use science. ”

        No, they really didn’t. Unless you definition of science is so loose that even using a rock as a tool would be considered science.

        “A lion eating a zebra is not immoral”

        To who? Who makes the decision of morality?

        We do. And if zebras were smarter, so would they.

        Posted by NotAScientist | February 25, 2014, 10:06 am
      • You’re still not really answering the question as to how do you evaluate what is harm and what is benefit. Is pain harm? Does causing the least amount of pain count as benefit? Does emotional pain count? But here, in much the same way as you are responding to me I will respond to your points.

        “But that doesn’t mean we can’t use it to learn what causes harm.”

        We can, I suppose, try to measure harm but first you have to define it. Is it physical? Emotional? What counts as harm? How do you determine what is the best course. Is it something that causes the least harm (once you’ve defined harm) and the most benefit? For example if someone has a gangrenous leg you should remove it. They are alive even though the loss of a leg is harm so the net benefit outweighs the harm. Again back to a previous example (which you always try to ignore) if killing one man to harvest his organs saves 6 is that moral?

        “No, they really didn’t. Unless you definition of science is so loose that even using a rock as a tool would be considered science.”

        This is incorrect. Germany did a number of experiments on living people to try to scientifically understand different aspects of human heredity. They did not really understand heredity and genetics so in the end they were not always what we would consider scientifically sound experiments (based on our understanding) but they were attempting to use science for understanding.

        “To who? Who makes the decision of morality?”

        That’s the question I’ve been asking you. No one considers it immoral. They may not like it but no one (at least no one of adult intellegence) thinks the lion is doing something immoral.

        “We do.”

        So in your view there are no real morals, just opinions. If we decide what morality is, we can change our mind. If it is immoral today to execute people based on some criteria (a religion, as sexual orientation, a ethnicity, whatever) we can change our minds and decide that it is ok to execute them tomorrow. That’s the problem with your position. It’s based on sand. Any tide of change can wash it away.

        Posted by Far Out Madman | February 25, 2014, 10:35 am

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