For non theists : What is the conscience and does it really matter?
Since we dont believe in a set of moral standards based on the desires of a powerful god, on what do you base your conscience? "How do you define it? and if at the end of everything we are going to die, why does it matter to have a conscience? Does being selfish matter? What should we care for others when we all are going to die anyway?
This is an excellent question. I would like to suggest a start on the answer.
Humans did not prosper by being the biggest, strongest or fastest. We learned to cooperate in a way that is seen nowhere else in the natural world. Our big brains are necessary to deal with complex social interactions in large groups. We feel empathy and compassion we can see the world from the perspective of others (although one board member made me doubt this yesterday).
We all avoid pain and are attracted to pleasure. I believe this is the foundation of ethics, to cause the least possible harm to others. We live in society and most of us are able to see the benefits of working for the good of the group. An interesting observation in vampire bats showed how they keep track of selfish individuals. If a bat fails to find blood in a night's hunting a neighbour will regurgitate blood and share some of its store. If a bat fails to reciprocate when it has a good night, future requests will be rejected. A conscience is the instinct that we have failed to keep our contract with our group.
If everybody acted in a purely selfish way we would all suffer. Perhaps we alone among all species have the capacity to control the instincts of our selfish genes
Are there any "non theists" on this site who have been so since birth? Are there any here who follow Crowley's precept: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" ?
I do believe in God but I do not act out of fear of punishment or deprivation. I have no rational explanation for why I try to "do the right thing." It makes me feel better ... that's about as much of a reason as I have. But it occurs to me that, even though I long ago rejected the Catholicism I was raised in, some of the morals may have taken a deeper root than the more objective bits and pieces.
But is it necessary to have "religion" to have "morals", in general? I think that's really hard for anyone to say ... who among us has no knowledge whatsoever of morals derived from religious tenets? The answer of course is - no one. And given that knowledge, no matter what one has decided to believe, even if it's Satanism and glorification of evil, it's still believed within the inescapable context of the knowledge of moral religion.
Most of those questions only you can answer.
Conscience is both biological, cultural, and sometimes religion based. We evolved one that allows us to function within groups. Apes. chimps, baboons, and monkeys have them ours is just adapted a little differently according to circumstanses.
if at the end of everything we are going to die, why does it matter to have a conscience?
Does being selfish matter? What should we care for others when we all are going to die anyway?
Those are all questions you need to answer for yourself. But one thing I think you need to realize is that these questions are all based on the false assumption that we need god to me moral we don't, in fact we don't really need governments to be moral.
I follow my own morals, no god, no law code, do i use for a guide, just my brain. I'm not concerned about how others, be it the religous, or nationalistic view me I just have to be comfortable with myself about how I treat others.
I was a non-theist from birth, as I believe all humans are. No one is born with a religion, they inherit the superstitions of their parents.
1. the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action: to follow the dictates of conscience.
2. the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual.
The principle of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" does not mention or involve god.
im kinda thinkin if it feels good....do it.............oompa
on what do you base your conscience?
Behavioral imprinted humanistic values that we are all born with.
If we were to follow the moral guidelines from the God named Jehovah we would be slaughtering
anyone that we thought would offer something of value to ourselves by doing so.
"I was a non-theist from birth, as I believe all humans are. No one is born with a religion, they inherit the superstitions of their parents."
Nathan, if you can get a hold of it, I suggest you read Michael Persinger's Neurologicical Bases* of God Beliefs which basically states that we are biologically predisposed to having religous beliefs because of the construction of the brain. This is not to be confused with the perversion of the theory by theists that God made Man that way so they could communicate.
As far as inheriting their parents or cultures Memes, those religions are later elaborations that have evolved throughout the centuries. If you were to start the human race all over with people who were totally ignorant (not just unbelieving) of all religions, their descendants would spontaneously re-evolve religion.
*Bases is not a typo, it is the plural of basis.
PS: You may want to Google anything under Persinger or Ramachandran concerning this subject.
As evolution's adaption of the best suited for survival reproduces more often than those less adapted for survival works in conjunction with several or possibly many too numerous too quantify adaptions all being selected by their best suited survival capacity, morals have developed.
So it is an over simplification to be able to determine exactly how our moral development occurred, but as our species was developing adaptations selected by the best suited for survival process, our species went the group support route, adapting traits or modes of behavior best suited for survival in that setting, but it was limited to small groups not a huge global population for millions of years as we were hunter gatherers.
But as our species started to develop our cognitive abilities further to where we learned to plant seeds and and so we settled down in cities, this has acted on the selective process to allow us to develop a different set of morals in combination with more finally tuned cognitive abilities because of shared learning over a bigger population of our species working together and at the same time culling the herd selectively of non conformist to a more subservient traits prone to accept authority.
Today due to circumstances and further developments of this trend we have big&small governments and big&small religions dictating the morals of the masses or if we don't except these morals by the authorities we have adapted the ability to adopt our own but not make too many waves thus for the most part we conform to existing condition in our culture with little forays into uncharted territory but not too far because that usually will mean our demise or life imprisonment with no parole and so we may not get to reproduce or at least limit our reproduction and effect we have on further species personality traits development .