here’s my cent:
The question of morality or ethics is the question of
HOW TO BE A GOOD PERSON.
Since personhood is irreducibly a SOCIAL phenomenon, the question of morality or ethics is a social issue — how to act in public, how to be a good citizen, how to be a decent human. (Notably, with regard to ethics or morality, how a person THINKS is irrelevant except to the extent it affects action.)
That being said (and as a person who went to Sunday school or church almost every Sunday until I was 18), I feel compelled to proclaim my belief that
THE 10 COMMANDMENTS IS MORALITY FOR DIMWITS.
Which is not to say that some of the principles expressed in them should not be incorporated into a decent moral system, but that the style, the approach, the implicit theory underlying the idea of putting morality into “ten commandments” is stupid and authoritarian and facilitative of a dim, consumerish outlook and attitude easily used by authoritarians to manage and control the stupid.
Isn’t this undeniable?:
People who do not believe in God, whether agnostic (like me) or atheist, and are good people anyway, are better people than those for whom being a good person somehow involves or is tied to the existence of God. (This is not an attack on people who believe in God, many of whom would be good citizens even if they knew there was no god, but could be rightly construed as an attack on people who think that people who don’t believe on God are somehow inferior/bad citizens of the universe.)
The point is we good citizens who are agnostic or atheist are not good people based on some fear of hell or shame, or a desire to emulate or please some God; we’re good because it’s the right thing to do and we want other people to be good and we wouldn’t expect them to be good if we weren’t being good. (And many of us believe that people can and generally will be good if they are not subjected to authoritarianism.)
Dimwits deride the concept of “situational ethics.” But that’s life – situations, and determining how to act in them.
Ideally, one would work up an analytical calculus of whether and how one’s proposed actions affect other people negatively, and then make a reasonable determination – the same determination most other people trying to be good citizens would make – about whether to proceed even in the face of the negative consequences to others.
If people were honest and thoughtful and reasonable, that is if we were all good citizens, and strove to follow this method, that is all the morality we would need — no supreme being required. (Although it would inevitably need to be supplemented by a little bit of law, specifically some kind of punishment/education/rehabilitation of people who repeatedly make moral choices that reasonable people would not make.)