Why Most People Fail Morality 101

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I get a lot of flak, and get banned from message boards, for telling people that their moral intuitions are dead wrong (I admit that confronting people on this may not be the best strategy, but I'm not in it to make friends). The sad fact is that, just like in politics and religion, people have been indoctrinated to believe that their opinions about morality are just as valid, if not more, as anyone else's.

People are brainwashed in this way so that they can view the majority opinions, the 'proper' anti-individualist positions propagated by the State and religion, as the valid ones, and outnumbered but principled positions as being wrong. This is merely an extension of the democratic epistemology of 'numbers make right': since most people agree with collectivist position X, and all positions are equally valid, then we should consider X 'normal' and all disagreements 'abnormal.'

Here are four major ways in which people fail to understand basic moral concepts:

1. The belief that diversity of opinions means there is no truth, therefore we should accept the beliefs of an arbitrary majority.

I would suggest that we call this the Sociologist's Fallacy, since it is a fallacy into which most sociologists fall. They believe that the fact that different societies differ in some moral principles implies that morality is not based on reality.

And yet when we apply this methodology to different areas of reasoning, we find that it is absurd and unfounded. There is a diversity of opinions about biology, therefore this should mean that the belief in a sky-pixie popping humans into existence should be considered to be on an equal footing as the theory of evolution. There is a diversity of opinions about astronomy and astrology, therefore we should consider the scientific model of the solar system on the same footing as the astrological belief that planets are a representation of human character. I mean, we can go on like this: there are even some people who believe the Earth is flat.

In short, as I have stated on my video on global warming, putting the wildest results of bad intuition (as coupled with State and religious indoctrination) on the same footing as reality and science is sheer lunacy.

But suppose we accept this false premise. If you believe that all positions are equally valid, then how do you determine what group norms to establish? The only recourse left at this point is to adopt whatever the majority has been indoctrinated to believe, in order to leave most people happy, and not attract 'undesirable attention.'

In practice, this means that most groups in a collectivist society (which in our current world means all societies, with some being somewhat collectivist and others being heavily collectivist) will adopt rules of conduct which follow and mimic the attitudes of the religious and political hierarchies in place. The end result is the suppression of vital ideas on civil disobedience and free thought, even in atheist groups.

This leads us to the second fallacy . . . .

2. The belief that the laws or religious doctrines tell us what we should consider right and wrong.

I explained the logical argument on this in my entry 'The Disproof of Collectivist Obligation.' Laws and religious doctrines are constructs of ruling classes meant to control people for the ruling classes' own gain. They have no relation to moral reality. At best they may coincide with it, but since collectivist constructs cannot be rationally justified, they are no more relevant to reality than the fact that a psychic huckster like Sylvia Browne may say something true once in a while by sheer coincidence.

Unfortunately, due to point 1 above, most people fall back onto these collectivist constructs as a moral standard because they have been indoctrinated into upholding those constructs, and they have been indoctrinated to believe that they alone cannot find the truth on any matter. The democratic epistemology is inherently aggregate-based: like post-modernist scam artists, the democratic ruling classes do not want anyone to think for himself or herself, but rather to seek reinforcement in groupthink.

The double irony of this tactic is that religion is portrayed as a universal morality, and the rejection of religion is portrayed as the rejection of universality. This is an absurd belief, as religious morality is nothing if not drastically relativist. The second you ask moral questions from the Bible to a Christian, he falls back to cultural relativism and claims that God's rules 'only apply to those specific people at that time.' The only universality in religious morality is that it's universally nonsense.

When people set rules of conduct that limit behaviour based on religious doctrines or law, they are (consciously or unconsciously) sanctioning the evils done in the name of those doctrines or laws. Anyone who suppresses discussions of illegal acts is implicitly condoning war and the draft, the War on Drugs, 'immigration' laws, the persecution of homosexuals, slavery, misogyny, all things which are or were points of law. Anyone who suppresses discussion on a religious basis is implicitly condoning the slaughter of unbelievers, anti-homosexuality, slavery, misogyny, the murder of disobedient children, and the murder of anyone who works on Sunday.

You can't pick and choose. If you legitimize the law or religious doctrines, you can't then complain that your support is used to legitimize parts of those things you consider immoral.

But then they do their best to rationalize what they see as immoral behaviour (including crime), which leads us to my next point . . . .

3. The belief that man's actions do not proceed from his nature.

This may sound complex, but I'm basically talking here about self-determinism versus social influences: whether what we do is primarily caused from ourselves or by exterior influences.

If we hold to the belief that whatever people do is the result of exterior influences, then we fall into a causality problem. If my behaviour is solely influenced by other people, and so is yours, and everyone else's, then what is the ultimate cause of behaviour? If we follow the reasoning through, we have to come to the conclusion that our behaviour does not really exist, but this is obviously absurd.

Indeed, it may be the case that some of our behaviour is informed by exterior influences (as it rightly should), but that does not mean that we should impute behaviour solely on society, video games, rap music, or any single cause of that sort. All of these influences are necessarily processed and filtered by the individual's personality and beliefs.

More conceptually, the issue is whether we accept determinism as applying to the human brain, or if we don't. Many people see brain determinism as a problem, and believe that accepting brain determinism means we must reject morality and free will.

To my way of thinking, this is a very bizarre belief. Let's suppose that brain determinism is false. This entails that the individual's actions are not caused by his nature--by the contents of his brain or mind. Now, on what basis can we then talk in moral terms? If my actions are not determined by who I am, then what does it matter if I am a moral person or not? Any positions on morality would be part of my mind, and thus irrelevant if brain determinism is false.

But the problem is even worse. If brain determinism is false, then we cannot judge a mass murderer on moral grounds. If his actions have no relation to who he is, then how can we judge the mass murderer as a bad person? He could very well be a saint. So if brain determinism was false, then our whole moral framework would be invalid. Since our discovery of this principle was made on grounds of moral principles (for instance, how one should find knowledge), this is clearly contradictory and untenable.

Finally, here's my last point, which is more of a general observation that comes from my experience as a trouble-maker . . . .

4. The belief that being moral means being nice, non-offensive, and playing by the rules.

If we apply this belief consistently, then anyone who propagates a controversial truth is immoral. Anyone who fights evil ideas is immoral. Anyone who holds to his values and principles despite opposition is a dangerous extremist. Anyone who uses civil disobedience is immoral (the American Revolutionaries, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Oskar Schindler were all demons from Hell, I guess). Unfortunately, this belief is widespread, and it's really disgusting, because it goes counter to what morality actually is.

We need to be out there and say, YES it is moral to uphold the truth, YES it is moral to fight evil, YES it is moral to be a person of principles, YES it is moral to disobey the State. NO it is not okay to sanction lies in the name of tolerance, NO it is not okay to tolerate evil, NO it is not okay to call people of principles extremists, NO it is not okay to preach obedience to the State.

Morality means fulfilling your values and helping people you care about to do the same. It does not mean to censor them, to prevent them from being mentally free, or to support ideologies which cause destruction. If you think morality means niceness must prevail over principles, then you have condemned yourself to never being able to learn what is right and what is wrong in our society. Having made yourself wilfully ignorant, why do you keep speaking lies?

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Francois Tremblay's picture
Columns on STR: 12

Francois Tremblay blogs at Check Your Premises, is co-host of the Hellbound Alleee Show and has self-published a book called The Handbook of Atheistic Apologetics.