Morality is an extremely tricky subject – or even a slippery slope often. Although often brought up during debates between atheists and theists, I believe it’s quite an important subject that’s hardly addressed properly by most people – so I’ll bite and am probably opening a can of worms here – but anyways.
First thing I’ll get the main objection by theists out of the way – the notion that objective moral standards based on religion is somehow superior. That is far from true, and I can’t for the life of me understand why one would presume moral objectivism = by default good. Lets me point out the obvious here – the scriptures are open to interpretation, and if people subscribe to the whole objective moral standards based on scripture, then it would be impossible to have any sort of rational argument with them to convince what they’re doing is “wrong”. If people decide to kill homosexuals, stone adulterers, marry children or own slaves based on scripture, no way in hell you could attempt to convince them that it’s barbaric – for it’s the word of god they’re following, and it’s objective. There is absolutely no room for reason there. Although most people retrofit the scripture by cherry picking to fit their moral worldview, you can’t deny the existence of people who seriously believe that apostates, homosexuals and adulterers should be put to death. That’s the whole problem with it – i.e. it’s stuck in a rut and dogmatic, which has hindered the progress of humanity for ages.
Now secondly, is there such a thing as objective morality i.e. is, broadly defined as morality that is independent of human mind? If so how do they know of it? How does it approach complex moral grey areas without attempting to exercise rationality or reason? Appealing to consequence doesn’t make the notion of “objective morality” any more true – which is what people often tend to do if confronted with this question. And unfortunately many people concede this without much thought, since appealing to consequence usually shuts down any sort of constructive debate.
Coming to morality, so does morality being subjective mean that you could just go on and kill, rape and murder? Now such arguments often confuse the word subjective with arbitrary. For instance, “Einstein is a genius” might well be a subjective statement, but I could substantiate that statement with sound rational arguments and supportive evidence. This is not to be confused with “I love pancakes” which is an entirely arbitrary statement – I may have personal reasons of not liking it, but it’s not something I could substantiate on rational grounds.
Morality could be broadly defined as acting in such a way to minimize harm, suffering and increase human happiness. Our sense of morality has evolved over time -and this has demonstrably helped our progress as a species. So it is rational for me to follow the moral code rooted in humanism for the collective progress of humanity, of which I am a part of – it’s arguably our greatest tool for survival. A moral framework, that is internally consistent, rooted in humanism and based on rationality and reason is hence our ideal choice.
That is not to say that it doesn’t have any limitations – of course it does, plenty of grey areas might remain still highly debated, but that’s the point, sometimes there is no objective right answer – however it’s still the best moral framework we have. The alternative is far worse and dogmatic – if anything experience or even science have taught us over the years is the fact that such absolutism or dogmatism hardly leads to anything constructive.
PS: I didn’t intend this post to be a detailed, in depth discussion on morality and ethics, just random musings that I was intending to post for a while – so excuse me for the obvious lack of detail.