Can morality exist without a divine authority?

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  1. fred allen profile image59
    fred allenposted 12 years ago

    Can morality exist without a divine authority?

    Without absolutes who has the authority to establish moral boundaries? If there is no divine standard, can there be such a thing as morality or right and wrong?

  2. Dave Mathews profile image59
    Dave Mathewsposted 12 years ago

    Brother Fred: It's been a very long time since we read anything from you. Welcome back!
    To answer your question: Without someone like God, setting the boundaries for man's moral actions stating categorically this is right or this is wrong, OR you can go so far but no farther, establishing a limit then man would have no moral compass with which to judge right from wrong good from evil. This is why mankind needs God's laws. God is higher in authority than any living man and God's moral standards "Set the bar" if you will to the standard of morality he expects from us as humans.

  3. profile image0
    Poetic Foolposted 12 years ago

    Certainly morality exists without a divine or absolute standard.  It just becomes moral relavitism.   After all, a person is considered moral if they conform to their rules of right conduct whatever they are.   They can have either good or bad morals but, if they adhere to them, then they are moral.

    With moral relavitism everyone chooses or sets their own moral standards and judges themselves better or worse relative to the next person.  The problem with this, of course, is that without some absolute standard of morality no one has a valid argument that their morals are better than anyone else's.  The other problem with moral relavitism is that people have a tendency to change their morals when it is convenient.   If there is no absolute standard outside of themselves, who or what is there to tell them they can't.  This, of course, gave rise to laws in civilized societies that are nothing more than an attempt to codify moral behavior.

    If there is no absolute moral standard that murder is wrong, for example, then murder can be justified for a variety of reasons.  I certainly think that murder is absolutely wrong but there are people who disagree with me, a fact that has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout history.

    This is actually a quite heady question that delves into issues of philosophy, faith, natural law and so much more.

  4. Druid Dude profile image60
    Druid Dudeposted 12 years ago

    That is why I see organized religion as a necessary step. Haven't talked in a bit w/ you. Laws and rules were established in antiquity, mainly by religious authorities, who at one time were the FINAL authority, and, as I've said in other statements, science and religion were born at the same time, by the same mother. It has to do with speaking as a child...and we are still speaking as children.  That is christianity. I don't perceive God as being mystical, supernatural. Miracles are not necessary to enhance my understanding, and arguments about marital status, the possibility of children beg the issue. The bar had to be set for us to come together with a united purpose, and without a spiritual sense, we never would have survived to this day and age, but, by the same token, the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, all had divinities, yet, we perceive them as not being terribly moral. They saw themselves as being moral to their own times, and it can be argued that an understanding of Karma is essential to the christian concept of "Do unto others".  To form communities, we needed a structure, and whether a "divine" standard was required or not, that is how our concepts came to be defined.

  5. fred allen profile image59
    fred allenposted 12 years ago

    Poetic Fool has captured the essence of this delemna. Without a divine authority there can be no absolute. If it becomes relative then morality and right and wrong can no longer be definitively defined. More than one standard for morality makes all standards invalid. Who can say which standard is the right one? If no one can set THE standard for morality, then there can be no such thing AS morality... only relativism, which is in fact NOT morality. For the word to have meaning there MUST be an absolute Divine authority to establish it.

  6. profile image0
    AntonOfTheNorthposted 12 years ago

    "Who has the authority to establish moral bounaries?"

    It has always been those in power.  Likely it always will be.  Now if the question is "Who SHOULD have the authority. . ."

    I would argue that there never has been a divine standard, simply because there has never been one religion, or one faith, or one set of morals.

    Morality is an extension of the survival instinct and is a product of empathy.  If we are going to establish moral boundries, the only just way to do so is on the basis of what we can agree on.  Clearly the divine is not one of those things.

    So, what can we agree on?

    Causing suffering is normally bad.  Aleviating suffering is normally good.  Why don't we start there?

    Humans need sustenance.  (air, food, shelter).  Depriving a human of these things will cause suffering.  It is therefore immoral to deny sustenance.

    Humans need freedom.  Depriving a human of freedom will cause suffering.  It is therefore immoral to deny freedom.

    Sure, you can think of times when depriving someone of food is not immoral.  (night before surgery for example), and depriving someone of freedom because they committed a crime might also be considered just, but I think any moral code has to start from the needs of humans, and the reasons that we justify depriving those needs.

    I need to make money, therefore I will deprive humanity of clean air. . . this would be immoral to my mind. 

    No divine intervention required.


  7. fatfist profile image68
    fatfistposted 12 years ago

    What is moral to you, is immoral to your neighbor. Morality is naught but OPINION!

    "who has the authority to establish moral boundaries? "

    The one who holds the majority of the guns....your government!!
    If you don't follow what your government declared as "morals", then expect to be executed or punished in some way.
    If you have an arsenal of weapons that can take down your government, then you are free to authoritatively decree your own morals. Until then.....just let others decide what is moral for you, ok?

  8. profile image0
    AKA Winstonposted 12 years ago

    There a number of giveaways in the way this question is framed that makes it apparent that it is from someone who is deeply religious.

    First off, there is no explanation of the key terms - morality is tossed out as if it is obvious to anyone that there is such a thing and that it must be an absolute standard.  The reality is that questions of morality are questions about the happiness or suffering of the other creatures with which we share this planet, and because that is a relationship morality is automatically relative.

    Morality amounts to our relationships with others, other creatures, and with ourselves.

    The other giveaway is the use of the phrases morally right and morally wrong instead of moral and immoral.  Only the religious find a way to judge morals.  All right or wrong means in this context is that the theist believes in an all-powerful referee who throws a penalty flag when we do something 'wrong".  Of course, only this being could know what is right or wrong so we humans would always be in the dark, anyway, even if there were some such absolute judge.

    But the final clue is the lack of acknowledgement that there are intractable problems in belief of absolute morality - say it had been possible to know when she was just a tyke that Typhoid Mary's life would cause the death of hundreds of other humans - would it have been morally right or morally wrong to kill her to save the future deaths?

    I guess only god knows - and he's not telling.

  9. profile image51
    Francisco Ojedaposted 12 years ago

    I believe that morality can exist without diving authority through exploration of one's experiences. These experiences can be the judgement of the actions we take on others, or the feelings we have from the actions take towards us. I prefer to address my morality, and that of others, through my faith and beliefs. But, I also believe that I cannot limit myself to understanding morality in a linmited scope of my faith and beliefs. Otherwise, I would be judgemental of the acts of others in a different culture, faith, race, gender, or age. My level of morality maybe in higher regards from someone younger, but less than one older or mature than I. I believe the trick is to apply a sense of fairness and openness by actively listening and understanding the circumstances, then compare with the appropriate fait and beliefs.

  10. Matt Clooney profile image56
    Matt Clooneyposted 12 years ago

    Humans over time have learnt that if you kill you neighbour or steal his goods that this will have consequences. Nothing divine about it.

  11. Aley Martin profile image65
    Aley Martinposted 12 years ago

    Of course it can. Morality has nothing to do with a God concept. It is a built in decision whether or not we are moral. Atheists are moral too....people just think they "could not be".

  12. lone77star profile image71
    lone77starposted 12 years ago

    Moral relativism of this mortal realm is a path to oblivion. Definitions change to suit the ones in power, but it all comes back to selfishness (ego).

    Ego is the source of all evil. This is the mortal "self"--that sense of entitlement to be right and frequently to make others wrong.

    Absolute right is whatever God says it is. Many forget that it's His universe. He created it. And the Jewish people--God's chosen people--couldn't even get it right. They kept falling by the wayside, worshiping other gods, being conquered and praying their way back into God's good graces.

    Man, left to his own devices would be a completely selfish beast. You will see shortly how this nature plays out in the United States as greed comes to a fine boil, and a totalitarian state takes over (for the good and security of the people).


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