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2 hours ago, Quill said:

Here’s something I have mused about, though and I’d like to know your thoughts: if a child is raised with a faith system, he or she gets heavily instructed in “good” or pro-social behavior. (Well, usually, at least.) There’s a good chance “good person” will solidify as part of their self-identity, so then, if that person relinquishes his or her religious belief system as an adult, he still retains this self-identity, making pro-social behavior more likely. I wonder if being raised as an atheist makes it more difficult for that to happen.  

 

Anecdotal, but we left organized religion when the boys were around 5 and 8. By that time I'd say I was already agnostic and DH was atheist. So the boys were mostly raised in a non-religious home environment. And yet somehow they still managed to be great kids. I cut your dog analogy, but it reminded me to mention that I believe basic morals--the things large groups of humans tend to agree on are "right" or "wrong"--are pretty much hardwired into most mentally healthy people (nature) and then reinforced when they see their parents and other adult role models acting "right" (nurture). Certainly one or both of those can go wrong. But I've known way too many really messed up people who were/are in church every time the doors were open to believe that has anything at all to do with morals or right living or whatever you want to call it.

2 hours ago, Home'scool said:

UGH I wish I had not started this thread. It has gone in a direction I did not want it to go, but again, I take responsibility for that. I did not express myself well.

  • I never ever wanted to imply that atheists are more apt to live a bad life, or murder people, or be thugs. I do not believe that and I do not want to perpetuate that idea.
  • I do not think that people who believe in God are better people. I know a lot of people who are front and center in their church every Sunday who deserve a special seat in Hell. I know a lot of people who never go to church and do not live by rules of the bible who should be ushered straight to Heaven (if there is such a place)

I was musing about the concept of someone who DOES believe in an afterlife still committing a murder for purely selfish reasons. I was wondering how they would justify that in their mind. I guess the answer just boils down to cognitive dissonance.

I am assuming that is how Robert Kraft justifies paying for women who are probably forced to service him. But the fact that I muse about Robert Kraft does NOT mean I think all men are bad, or that men that are widowed are more apt to pay for sex. 

I never wanted to imply that my musings about one group of people means I believe that another group of people (atheists) do not have that worry, and therefore would be willing to murder people willy-nilly.

 

 

I think everybody understands where you're coming from! It's a good conversation.

I do wonder about your references to Kraft. I'm kind of curious what it is about him that convinces you he's a religious/spiritual person? I know very little about the man, so I'm mostly just curious, and wondering because I tend to believe we can't know that kind of thing about anyone we're not very, very close to. 

Edited by Pawz4me
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3 hours ago, Quill said:

Here’s something I have mused about, though and I’d like to know your thoughts: if a child is raised with a faith system, he or she gets heavily instructed in “good” or pro-social behavior. (Well, usually, at least.) There’s a good chance “good person” will solidify as part of their self-identity, so then, if that person relinquishes his or her religious belief system as an adult, he still retains this self-identity, making pro-social behavior more likely. I wonder if being raised as an atheist makes it more difficult for that to happen. 

Let me use a really bad analogy: suppose someone wants to teach their dog to come on command. One way to achieve this is to put the dog on a long leash, issue the command, reel him in, then reward him. Eventually, the leash will no longer be necessary; the association is fixed and the dog will come on command for the (hope of) being rewarded. So - is this true for the training in pro-social behavior one received from growing up in a faith system? That even once the “leash” of religious dictum has been removed, the behaviors are fixed? 

 

You assume that those raised atheist are not taught a strong value system which we internalise.

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6 minutes ago, Laura Corin said:

You assume that those raised atheist are not taught a strong value system which we internalise.

I assume nothing; I’m asking the question because I have no experience. I tend to think it is easier to communicate the benefits of morally good behavior in a family with a faith system, because behavior that is “righteous” is continually supported by one’s family AND wider community (i.e., at their church, or their faith-based groups.) 

 

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2 hours ago, Selkie said:

The notion that it is difficult to be a good person without religion is bizarre.

I also disagree with your bolded statement above. My dh was raised in a very Catholic family, and he says that the only lesson he got (from both his family and the church) was that a good person is one who shows up to church every Sunday and puts a donation in the basket.   

*I* don’t think the bolded AT ALL. I’m talking about raising children and how certain things get communicated if not through a faith system. 

I remember reading about some experiment in which children were put in a room all by themselves and they were supposed to do a task, like throw a ball at a target from behind a line on the floor. They were on the Honor System to record how many times they hit the target from behind the line. Some of the kids were told there was an Invisible Princess sitting in the chair, watching. Others were not told this. The kids who believed a Princess was watching were far less likely to lie and cheat on the task than the kids who didn’t hear about the Invisible Princess. So the kids who believed in a “supernatural” being were more likely to behave morally than those who simply thought it was up to them to report their wins honestly. 

This experiment makes me wonder about the thought processes of kids who believe vs do not believe. 

Also - and this is a pure anecdote, but - in the book Beautiful Boy, when the Chystal-Meth-addicted son attempts to go through a 12-step program, he gets hung up on the part where you are supposed to acknowledge “God” or a “Supreme Being” or something. The author writes, with a hint of bitterness, “Thanks to his atheism, a gift I bestowed upon him, he couldn’t accept this part of the recovery process.” I thought that was so sad. 

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I am assuming that is how Robert Kraft justifies paying for women who are probably forced to service him

It is an assumption on my part, just hearing about how much he gives to Jewish charities and the such.

I do know that he has talked extensively about this late wife and how much of his charitable work is in her honor. Personally I think it is a huge dishonor to the memory of his wife to pay for sex from a sketchy place. Maybe I am just annoyed by his situation as I am deep in Patriots territory here and everyone here is offering excuses for him.

 

 

 

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36 minutes ago, Quill said:

I assume nothing; I’m asking the question because I have no experience. I tend to think it is easier to communicate the benefits of morally good behavior in a family with a faith system, because behavior that is “righteous” is continually supported by one’s family AND wider community (i.e., at their church, or their faith-based groups.) 

 

The golden rule is worldwide. It's thus highly reinforced.

Eta I was taught, and I taught my sons, that we aim to be good people. Being good leads to a civilised society that protects the worth of each person.

Edited by Laura Corin
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48 minutes ago, Home'scool said:

It is an assumption on my part, just hearing about how much he gives to Jewish charities and the such.

I do know that he has talked extensively about this late wife and how much of his charitable work is in her honor. Personally I think it is a huge dishonor to the memory of his wife to pay for sex from a sketchy place. Maybe I am just annoyed by his situation as I am deep in Patriots territory here and everyone here is offering excuses for him.

See, I'm too cynical to believe a person is religious or "good" because of donations. It's really easy for a very rich man to give LOTS of money and not miss it. And reap fairly immediate rewards for it, right now in this life, in the form of public recognition, contacts made, etc. Which makes the cynical part of me wonder if those things aren't perhaps more the motivation than religion or simply being a "good" person. I look much more at actions than at words or donations, and his recent actions certainly don't seem very righteous at all to me.

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1 hour ago, Laura Corin said:

The golden rule is worldwide. It's thus highly reinforced.

Eta I was taught, and I taught my sons, that we aim to be good people. Being good leads to a civilised society that protects the worth of each person.

This really isn't true. There are societies where the golden rule isn't the rule. Places where, for example, stealing from a neighboring tribe is not only expected, but how men prove their valor and worth to their families. As in, it's a good thing to go after another tribe's livestock or land. This is just one example, but honestly I don't think the golden rule is necessarily the norm in a lot of places, unless you're talking about kindness towards individuals you're allied with or view as equals or betters. On a more minor scale, go to somewhere like Turkey and try to get your luggage off the airport carousel or drive through a roundabout. Deference, politeness, waiting and begging pardon from others is not what happens.

I guess you could call these people uncivilized, but I'm not sure that's true and is more than sort of offensive. They have a different values system. And it's not that they are atheist either. They are often very spiritual/animistic/oriented towards deities.

The golden rule is pretty revolutionary in terms of human history precisely because most people would otherwise operate in their own self-interest (or in the interest of their family/tribe) if not explicitly taught not to do so. Loving one's enemies, turning the other cheek, etc. are not a common, global values, at least not historically. We are really used to them in the West in more modern times, but I'm not sure it says so much about universality of the golden rule.

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36 minutes ago, EmseB said:

This really isn't true. There are societies where the golden rule isn't the rule. Places where, for example, stealing from a neighboring tribe is not only expected, but how men prove their valor and worth to their families. As in, it's a good thing to go after another tribe's livestock or land. This is just one example, but honestly I don't think the golden rule is necessarily the norm in a lot of places, unless you're talking about kindness towards individuals you're allied with or view as equals or betters. On a more minor scale, go to somewhere like Turkey and try to get your luggage off the airport carousel or drive through a roundabout. Deference, politeness, waiting and begging pardon from others is not what happens.

I guess you could call these people uncivilized, but I'm not sure that's true and is more than sort of offensive. They have a different values system. And it's not that they are atheist either. They are often very spiritual/animistic/oriented towards deities.

The golden rule is pretty revolutionary in terms of human history precisely because most people would otherwise operate in their own self-interest (or in the interest of their family/tribe) if not explicitly taught not to do so. Loving one's enemies, turning the other cheek, etc. are not a common, global values, at least not historically. We are really used to them in the West in more modern times, but I'm not sure it says so much about universality of the golden rule.

I didn't say it was a universal. I said it was worldwide. You will find it in many places throughout  the world.

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3 hours ago, Quill said:

I assume nothing; I’m asking the question because I have no experience. I tend to think it is easier to communicate the benefits of morally good behavior in a family with a faith system, because behavior that is “righteous” is continually supported by one’s family AND wider community (i.e., at their church, or their faith-based groups.) 

 

 

It's not easier, jusrt different.

Secular ethics can be supported by one's family AND wider community.  Especially if, like me, you live in a very secular place.

My kids are not more likely to steal than others, just because they don't believe in an invisible Princess.

It's easy to think about why pro-social behaviours would emerge and be reinforced just through evolution. 

Edited by StellaM
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46 minutes ago, Laura Corin said:

I didn't say it was a universal. I said it was worldwide. You will find it in many places throughout  the world.

I would grant that, but I think you'd also find different ethics in many parts of the world, so I'm not sure if it's highly reinforced as much as we in the West might think, which is what I was getting at. Well, that, and the idea that cultures who don't abide by it are less civilized or less "good" than the West is not really a great way of looking at the world, IMO.

But back to the original tangent that this thread took, I'm generally a little baffled by the offense at the idea that morality or values come from some internal influence or an outside influence. I don't find it offensive if someone says, "You only do X because you believe Y." Well, in some cases in my life that's actually true. Sometimes I do things out of a sense of obligation to whatever values I hold not because I particularly want to. A lot of times believing Y is what makes me a better person. Or likewise if someone asks, "What is your basis for not doing X without the influence of Z?" It's not offensive if someone doesn't understand it or has no experience with it. Neither question or statement, to me, imply a lack of...whatever morality...because it comes from a different source or place than my own. I have a very difficult time wrapping my brain around abstract values in a solely material universe. This doesn't mean that I don't acknowledge there are some very moral materialists walking around who probably do more for humanity than I could ever hope to do myself. Philosophically, evolution-wise I have trouble with the concepts. I hardly ever ask the questions, though, because there's always someone who extrapolates that I must mean something negative about their personal morality.

And maybe I'm a selfish ingrate, but I actually find the golden rule pretty hard to follow. I can think of plenty of selfish things I'd rather do for myself than for others, even though I know what I believe to be morally correct. I don't always treat others as I'd like to be treated, sometimes I do what I want for me without regard for someone else. Nothing egregious, probably, but in little things that kind of wear down my soul. I don't think it's always as simple as the golden rule because sometimes the golden rule means sacrificing a heck of a lot, personally speaking.

Edited by EmseB
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5 minutes ago, EmseB said:

I would grant that, but I think you'd also find different ethics in many parts of the world, so I'm not sure if it's highly reinforced as much as we in the West might think, which is what I was getting at.

But back to the original tangent that this thread took, I'm generally a little baffled by the offense at the idea that morality or values come from some internal influence or an outside influence. I don't find it offensive if someone says, "You only do X because you believe Y." Well, in some cases in my life that's actually true. Sometimes I do things out of a sense of obligation to whatever values I hold not because I particularly want to. A lot of times believing Y is what makes me a better person. Or likewise if someone asks, "What is your basis for not doing X without the influence of Z?" It's not offensive if someone doesn't understand it or has no experience with it. Neither question or statement, to me, imply a lack of...whatever morality...because it comes from a different source or place than my own. I have a very difficult time wrapping my brain around abstract values in a solely material universe. This doesn't mean that I don't acknowledge there are some very moral materialists walking around who probably do more for humanity than I could ever hope to do myself. Philosophically, evolution-wise I have trouble with the concepts. I hardly ever ask the questions, though, because there's always someone who extrapolates that I must mean something negative about their personal morality.

And maybe I'm a selfish ingrate, but I actually find the golden rule pretty hard to follow. I can think of plenty of selfish things I'd rather do for myself than for others, even though I know what I believe to be morally correct. I don't always treat others as I'd like to be treated, sometimes I do what I want for me without regard for someone else. Nothing egregious, probably, but in little things that kind of wear down my soul. I don't think it's always as simple as the golden rule because sometimes the golden rule means sacrificing a heck of a lot, personally speaking.

It's not about "you only do X because you believe Y."  It's about only behaving a particular way because of how that behavior affects you (general you) rather than because it's right or wrong.  Kind of like donating to a charity only because you get the tax deduction, not because you actually believe in the charity's work.  

As to your second paragraph, I think you might be confusing following your morals, with actually having them.  We are human and therefore make mistakes.  Sometimes this means that we do things that we know are wrong.  Sometimes we do things that we aren't thinking about at the time, but later realize are wrong.  

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7 hours ago, Quill said:

Here’s something I have mused about, though and I’d like to know your thoughts: if a child is raised with a faith system, he or she gets heavily instructed in “good” or pro-social behavior. (Well, usually, at least.) There’s a good chance “good person” will solidify as part of their self-identity, so then, if that person relinquishes his or her religious belief system as an adult, he still retains this self-identity, making pro-social behavior more likely. I wonder if being raised as an atheist makes it more difficult for that to happen. 

I have never observed any great difference from one group to another in children getting heavily instructed in pro-social behavior. Some parents give it lip service, some parents lead it and teach it in a very meaningful way, a very few parents are completely 'whatever' about it. Doesn't matter whether they identify as religious or not.  

3 hours ago, Quill said:

*I* don’t think the bolded AT ALL. I’m talking about raising children and how certain things get communicated if not through a faith system. 

<big snip>

Also - and this is a pure anecdote, but - in the book Beautiful Boy, when the Chystal-Meth-addicted son attempts to go through a 12-step program, he gets hung up on the part where you are supposed to acknowledge “God” or a “Supreme Being” or something. The author writes, with a hint of bitterness, “Thanks to his atheism, a gift I bestowed upon him, he couldn’t accept this part of the recovery process.” I thought that was so sad. 

They get communicated by, well, communicating them! Stories are told, instructions are given, examples are observed, experiences are discussed. It's not that different.

Regarding Beautiful Boy, I can see where a desperate parent would be second-guessing absolutely everything, but I have never seen or read anything that makes me believe religious people have any sort of meaningful advantage when it comes to conquering drug addiction. 

1 hour ago, EmseB said:

 The golden rule is pretty revolutionary in terms of human history precisely because most people would otherwise operate in their own self-interest (or in the interest of their family/tribe) if not explicitly taught not to do so. Loving one's enemies, turning the other cheek, etc. are not a common, global values, at least not historically. We are really used to them in the West in more modern times, but I'm not sure it says so much about universality of the golden rule.

 

Wouldn't loving one's enemies and turning the other cheek historically be an Eastern value, not a Western one? 

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44 minutes ago, katilac said:

 

 

Wouldn't loving one's enemies and turning the other cheek historically be an Eastern value, not a Western one? 

What do you mean by Eastern? I am not aware of loving one's enemies being a significant virtue in the East Asian cultures I am most familiar with. In group solidarity and complying with group values, trying to make things comfortable for others within one's family and community are virtues.

Enemies get none of the same consideration.

Edited by maize

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58 minutes ago, maize said:

What do you mean by Eastern? I am not aware of loving one's enemies being a significant virtue in the East Asian cultures I am most familiar with. In group solidarity and complying with group values, trying to make things comfortable for others within one's family and community are virtues.

Enemies get none of the same consideration.

She's saying Eastern because Jesus was a Jew. 

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32 minutes ago, maize said:

What do you mean by Eastern? I am not aware of loving one's enemies being a significant virtue in the East Asian cultures I am most familiar with. In group solidarity and complying with group values, trying to make things comfortable for others within one's family and community are virtues.

Enemies get none of the same consideration.

 

Just that 'love your enemies' and 'turn the other cheek' are phrases in the Christian New Testament, and Jesus was of course from the Middle East where Christianity began. 

The same ideas were expressed in other writings and places in the east as well; offhand, I know that there are Egyptian and Babylonian texts that speak of returning good for evil. 

They are just not ideas that strike me as being historically Western (or modern). 

I don't quite get what you mean by this: In group solidarity and complying with group values, trying to make things comfortable for others within one's family and community are virtues. That this is what you most often see in the East Asian cultures you are familiar with? I think that working for the good of your family and your community are pretty common virtues. Do they not have a tradition of helping others, people they may not know? 

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10 hours ago, Quill said:

I assume nothing; I’m asking the question because I have no experience. I tend to think it is easier to communicate the benefits of morally good behavior in a family with a faith system, because behavior that is “righteous” is continually supported by one’s family AND wider community (i.e., at their church, or their faith-based groups.) 

 

 

In my experience, the only difference is that not only do we reinforce good behavior, but we spend a lot of time discussing WHY certain behaviors are good or bad. When I grew up and had to go to church, the answer to every question was always, "Because the Bible/God/Jesus says so." When my older dd screws up (obv this doesn't apply to younger dd because she is a toddler and as such is a deranged tyrant with no moral compass whatsoever) we spend a lot of time why her actions were wrong, which will help her evaluate difficult situations on her own as she gets older. 

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11 hours ago, katilac said:

 

 

Wouldn't loving one's enemies and turning the other cheek historically be an Eastern value, not a Western one? 

I think the original point I was responding to was about living in a society where something like the golden rule or loving one's enemies or turning the other cheek was commonly reinforced as an intrinsic societal value. Today, currently, while I do think the west is pretty solidly post-Christian, I do think there are still a majority of people who would say those values are something they would agree with. I don't think that Southwest Asia or other areas you might be referring to are places where those values are embedded in the culture to the point where it's just a given and most people would take it at face value and it would be commonly reinforced.

I really wasn't thinking the post I was responding to was talking about where, geographically, such things originated.

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5 hours ago, Mergath said:

 

In my experience, the only difference is that not only do we reinforce good behavior, but we spend a lot of time discussing WHY certain behaviors are good or bad. When I grew up and had to go to church, the answer to every question was always, "Because the Bible/God/Jesus says so." When my older dd screws up (obv this doesn't apply to younger dd because she is a toddler and as such is a deranged tyrant with no moral compass whatsoever) we spend a lot of time why her actions were wrong, which will help her evaluate difficult situations on her own as she gets older. 

I would say that if that's the only teaching you got to every question...from church...then it was pretty poor, but doesn't the WHY of certain behaviors being good or bad always come to some foundational belief about humanity or our place in the world? We believe hurting others is wrong. Why? Because they are human beings with value, just as you have value. Why do they have value? Because they have feelings and emotions just like you do. You don't like your feelings to be hurt, right? Well, my feelings are hurt right now because Joey is using the toy I want. If I get the toy he feels bad, but right now I feel bad because I don't have it. Why should I feel bad but not him?

And so on and so forth. Obviously it maybe usually doesn't come with this much thought to some kids, but I think some kids it does. And I think at a certain point there does have to be some kind of philosophical end point to those questions. Why should I do something that makes me feel uncomfortable or even bad in order to make sure others don't feel bad? I do think you're right that kids need those things explained much further than "because the Bible said so," or "because God sees you," or whatever, but that is not all the depth there is to Christianity, nor, I would assume, to the various ethical systems that most people hold to (I would hope). 

My kids are taught how to evaluate difficult situations on their own as they get older as well. I WISH we could be dealing with the toy example in my first paragraph! Complicated things have come up in dealing with other kids and my oldest is just barely hitting middle school. If I just said, "Welp, because the Bible says so," they'd likely end up very bitter and resentful and it would be no help at all. I know a lot of Christian families and no one that I know of really addresses stuff that way, especially not complicated ethical situations. I don't know very many families in my circles who don't spend a lot of time discussing whys and wherefores and reasoning behind their beliefs, even if those beliefs do happen to come from the Bible. Honestly, the more I think about it more it baffles me how anyone would get along that way.

Although sometimes the correct answer is "because I said so and I'm the mom!"  😄

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17 hours ago, happysmileylady said:

Quill,

It sounds like what you are asking is, where does morality come from if not from a divine being?

I’m sorry; I didn’t see this before. 

This isn’t exactly my question. For myself, I have become pretty much agnostic at this point in my life and I’m not solid on believing there is a divine being. But, as my faith hit the skids while I was raising kids, I concluded that raising them within the Christian construct with which i began was likelier to produce a good outcome than saying, “oh, we’re agnostic now,” if only because I believe stability is most often better for kids than instability. 

I think @EmseB hits upon my objection in her more recent post. It’s easy to rationalize doing what one wants if the basis is, say, The Golden Rule. All sorts of excuses can be made in one’s self-interests. I think only religious systems call to people’s altruism, call to putting the interests in others higher than oneself. 

 

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2 hours ago, Quill said:

I’m sorry; I didn’t see this before.

I think @EmseB hits upon my objection in her more recent post. It’s easy to rationalize doing what one wants if the basis is, say, The Golden Rule. All sorts of excuses can be made in one’s self-interests. I think only religious systems call to people’s altruism, call to putting the interests in others higher than oneself.

Anyone can lie to themself.  Religious people do it.  Atheists do it.

Personally I want to think of myself as a good person - that's important to my self image.  And doing the other person down isn't good.  I value virtue in myself and others.  Taking my mother into my house put me into therapy in the end.  But it was the only good thing to do at that point.  So I did it. 

Is that selfish?  Wanting to see oneself as good?  Is that an element in Christian virtue too?  Honest question - I've not been there.

 

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4 hours ago, EmseB said:



Although sometimes the correct answer is "because I said so and I'm the mom!"  😄

Well of course that's a correct answer. I think that's something we can all agree on regardless of religious beliefs or lack thereof. Or, as my dh used to say when ds was little, "Mommy is always right." 😂😂

Edited by Lady Florida.
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55 minutes ago, Laura Corin said:

Anyone can lie to themself.  Religious people do it.  Atheists do it.

Personally I want to think of myself as a good person - that's important to my self image.  And doing the other person down isn't good.  I value virtue in myself and others.  Taking my mother into my house put me into therapy in the end.  But it was the only good thing to do at that point.  So I did it. 

Is that selfish?  Wanting to see oneself as good?  Is that an element in Christian virtue too?  Honest question - I've not been there.

 

I don’t think it is selfish to want to see oneself as good. Wanting to see oneself as good clearly motivates tons of behavior. It is an element in Christian teachings, too, but I think the basis of the teaching makes a difference. A Christian (ideally) should be looking to Christ as an example of behavior, and would normally rely on scripture, especially scripture which was attributed directly to Jesus. So if Jesus says to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, a Christian (ideally) should strive to do those things. A Christian (ideally) would care about the virtue regardless of current circumstances. I think the difference is in a religious person believing their behavior doesn’t end at what they merely think is best or natural; it’s in believing there is a higher authority to appeal to. 

I grant you, people both religious and non-religious, fail to always carry out their own ideals. In no way am I saying religious people carry out good behavior while non-religious people do not. I think, though, a religious person has this higher authority (even if it is totally made up and there’s no such thing as God), this higher authority that offers parameters for ideal behavior. A non-religious person does not have that. I’m saying it seems to me like a disadvantage in raising a kid - to instruct them that, ultimately, their choices come down to what they think is the best/non-harmful action. 

Also, one advantage to raising kids within a faith construct is having a community of people who probably largely agree what behaviors are desirable and which, not. All people, even introverts like myself, benefit from being in a community of people who share many values in common. Personally, I’m glad to have had that. I think, where I live, raising children as atheists is, at least, lonely. 

 

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3 minutes ago, Quill said:

I don’t think it is selfish to want to see oneself as good. Wanting to see oneself as good clearly motivates tons of behavior. It is an element in Christian teachings, too, but I think the basis of the teaching makes a difference. A Christian (ideally) should be looking to Christ as an example of behavior, and would normally rely on scripture, especially scripture which was attributed directly to Jesus. So if Jesus says to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, a Christian (ideally) should strive to do those things. A Christian (ideally) would care about the virtue regardless of current circumstances. I think the difference is in a religious person believing their behavior doesn’t end at what they merely think is best or natural; it’s in believing there is a higher authority to appeal to. 

I grant you, people both religious and non-religious, fail to always carry out their own ideals. In no way am I saying religious people carry out good behavior while non-religious people do not. I think, though, a religious person has this higher authority (even if it is totally made up and there’s no such thing as God), this higher authority that offers parameters for ideal behavior. A non-religious person does not have that. I’m saying it seems to me like a disadvantage in raising a kid - to instruct them that, ultimately, their choices come down to what they think is the best/non-harmful action. 

Also, one advantage to raising kids within a faith construct is having a community of people who probably largely agree what behaviors are desirable and which, not. All people, even introverts like myself, benefit from being in a community of people who share many values in common. Personally, I’m glad to have had that. I think, where I live, raising children as atheists is, at least, lonely. 

 

I can understand that feeling of loneliness if you live in a society orientated around church membership.  Christianity is very much a minority pursuit in my home country, so there's no feeling of being excluded.  I experienced exclusion when I lived in provincial China and most Western residents were missionaries.  We felt shunned by most.

I don't have any experience of living with a feeling that there is a higher power from whom morality derives.  I've never found it hard to define and pursue virtue outside of that.  Most people whom I meet seem to be attempting to do-unto-others, and it works pretty well.  For children: you are instructing them in what is good (not 'best or natural').  So norms of helping not hindering, succouring not hurting, etc.  It's not a free-for-all.

 

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