When my ex and I were still together and fighting about religion, he said according to my atheism people can make up their own rules, therefore his immaterial words shouldn't hurt my feelings. After listening to an old podcast from Your Atheist Pastor I got to thinking and I just wanted to say in response to my ex's statement that I don't think I make up my own rules. I think that I learn from other people. I learn what works and what doesn't work in order to reach my goals. One goal I have is to feel like part of a community and you don't accomplish that by being a jerk. I want to be loved and respected so we respect each other because we get back what we put out. I don't need a bible to figure these things out. I call that common sense. These are just a couple things that immediately come to mind. Maybe some of you have even better responses to my ex's statement. I'd be interested to hear them.
Christianity certainly has no monopoly on standards of good conduct. When we talk about rules for how humans should live, and what should be considered right and wrong, we are talking about ethics. Every civilization throughout history has possessed a code of ethics. Plato wrote on ethics 400 years before Jesus was supposed to have lived. And complex systems of ethics existed well before that time. All of those thousands of civilizations had rules about right and wrong and how people should behave in their society. They did not need the sweet baby Jesus, or a heaven and hell paradigm, or the threat of eternity in damnation to understand good from bad and why it's valuable to behave ethically. The fact is, Christianity is not at all necessary for morality. The idea that this is true typically is really upsetting to most Christians. Many of them can't conceive of why anyone would do good if there wasn't a hell to punish them if they didn't. And that is the difference between a Christian and a truly enlightened human being. We can choose to do good and know that good is the right thing to do even without the punishment of hell. Its called humanity. Not the church.
The Ten Commandments
I am the LORD thy God
No other gods before me
No graven images or likenesses
Not take the LORD's name in vain
Remember the sabbath day
Honour thy father and thy mother
Thou shalt not kill
Thou shalt not commit adultery
Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not bear false witness
Thou shalt not covet
If Christians want to use this as their moral code it is grossly inadequate.
where does it say we shouldn't rape each other.
where does it say that slavery is a moral.
where does it say that women and men are moral equal.
where does it say I shouldn't have sex with a child.
where does it say I shouldn't hurt people.
in my thinking most of the Commandments more about building the fragile ego of a god that's not quite sure of himself. I realize that apologize twist around some of these Commandments to make them say anything they want but why isn't the literal meaning clear.
as human beings something to be proud of we're able to govern our own behavior, and have empathy for others we know right from wrong.
I see the greatest Injustice inhuman cruelty in my day-to-day life or in history perpetrated by those who felt they had the moral Authority given by God to do as they pleased.
example of these moral failures:
the suicide bomber that's promised Paradise
the conquistador that committed genocide to spread the word of the Lord.
or the church lady who beats her son because the devil's in him.
we could agree that the correct moral code is don't hurt people or take their stuff
that's enough for me
Religious people rarely follow their holy books exactly, if they do, they usually get put in prison. What they do is to cherry pick the bits they like and if that does not get them what they want, then they reinterpret the vague poetry thought the lens of their own prejudices. That's really the same thing, as they are making up their own rules too. The only difference is they try dishonestly to claim, that their ideas did not come from themselves, but are inspired by or come from a higher being, and therefore have more authority than other peoples.
It's not that, as atheists, we make up our own rules in the "march to our own drums" or "every man/woman for him/herself" sense, which is sort of what your ex seems to imply. That since we're atheists, we'd be totally OK with murder, rape, theft...which is bullshit. I think it's just that, since we don't believe there's a "celestial dictator" (as Christopher Hitchens put it) watching over us, answering prayers, and keeping score (and will send you to a place of eternal torture if you don't follow rules that are not even made clear in his "Holy" texts), we realize that the rules we should try to live together by are not as simple as citing a passage in the Bible, because you could quite likely cite another passage that says the opposite should be the rule. It's a lazy and dangerous way of approaching morality.
I recently watched "After life" by Ricky Gervias on Netflix and this very question was answered.
"So if theres no god, whats to stop you murdering, raping and stealing as much as you want?"
"What do you mean?"
"I do. I murder, rape and steal as much as I want to"
"But you dont"
"Yes I do"
"You don't murder and rape people"
"Thats because I don't want to. Not because some book tells me not to and I was the type of person that wanted to murder and rape? I doubt if some book would stop me anyway"
He simply has been brainwashed about what morality is and where it comes from.
He is just as free as you to rape and pillage, and just as subject to the consequences, should he go that route. Is he suggesting that apart from hellthreat, he would be immoral? Then he's actually your moral inferior.
One's beliefs about deities have nothing to do with one's rational self-interest and the desire to live in a civil society.
Who is more moral: someone who chooses to be kind, or someone who is merely afraid not to be kind?
At any rate, he's clearly choosing to be unkind, and doubtless hiding behind his god's skirts to justify it.
So it goes with fundamentalists.
We have societal rules. If we break them, there are consequences. In addition, most people are empathetic, and that is a large governing factor in how we act. My five year old grandson does not know who Jesus "is," but he hates to see people get their feelings hurt or who are sad. He did not learn that in any church.
Morals and other societal norms are dictated by society, not by any divine belief as they want you to believe. It was morally acceptable to have slaves...it's in the bible, and other religious texts... Rape... That's ok... There are numerous examples to pull from that tear gaping holes into the idea that rules and law are given/dictated by a divine entity/book... But cognitive dissonance allows them to ignore all that... And like I've always maintained.... If the threat of eternal damnation is the ONLY thing keeping you from acting like a shithead.... maybe... just MAYBE... You're just a shithead.
Rules are, by definition, general. It applies to collection of people. People have been making up rules, either by consensus, or by force, or both. We make up the "morality" rules as much as we made up gods to enforce them. We cannot have a community (that is, society, civilization, etc) without a generalized set of rules. It isn't whether we as atheists have generally applicable rules or not. We all do. The religious and us disagree where the source of that set of rules is.
Everyone makes up their own rules. This is a fact. This is why some atheists believe in ghosts, aliens, and some other sort of nonsense. This is why theists have so many beliefs and denominations. I believe in logic, reason, and evidence. In my world there is nothing supernatural.
Countries, states, and governments make up their own rules also. Many want this to include a blending of ideas from an invisible man.
From what I can tell, there are laws the dictate humanity just like the laws of physics. I don't know any atheists who think that not believing in God means they get to make up their own rules. More like, they don't believe in a God making up arbitrary rules. They seem more prone to recognizing that there are real rules the dictate how things play out and no matter how hard you insist God said otherwise, those rules can't be broken.
Furthermore, your ex's mentality sounds abusive. Abusers like to say that what they do and say "shouldn't" hurt you, for whatever reason. In my case, I wasn't supposed to be hurt by my ex because Jesus had made it so I didn't have to be hurt even if he was being hurtful. Damn, Jesus was doing a terrible job of it. Maybe if I'd prayed a little harder . . .
In high school when I first started questioning religion, I had to do some serious introspection about what morality was and why It was moral to do something or not. Like a lot of people on this site I quickly found that it wasn't natural, inconsistent, heavily nuanced. The "society determines what is moral" line wasn't good enough for me, and now it's even worse.
Now in this stage of information technology development, quantifying morality is more important that ever. When you are handing over potential life and death decisions to a machine it is a requirement that its goals are aligned with those of humanity, and that requires knowing what is and isn't moral, why, and how to put that knowledge into some form a computer can understand.
I kind of went into the weeds there but it's for a good reason. Your ex's statement is wrong because it assumes that if you could make your own morals that you would make it so that your feelings were not hurt by his words. If you had that ability and chose to use it then you may have still been in that relationship. What you feel is your body telling your mind that it is in a bad situation, to get out, to get help. It would actually be more rational to keep those emotions than to get rid of them, and imho your ex most likely had given up on trying to understand emotions and that alone makes him irrational.
This is one of my core principles that there are true positive and negative actions. Call it good/evil or right/wrong, if you like. When I realized that religion was a falsehood, that it was all superstition, then I tried to explain it, understand it and give religion a purpose. I was young and naive and so I posited that it was a way to set moral standards for the masses. I kept that belief for a long time, gradually changing to adjust to what I saw. Eventually, I realized that it was more often used to justify negative actions than positive. Still, more than 30 years later I'm still trying to work on religion and morality's place in society and nature.
My current philosophy is that there should be guidance for morality but religion is terrible at it. The argument that any basis for morality is corruptible seems to be valid and at the same time ridiculous. I've also noted that as we age we get more set in our ways, right or wrong. We can change but it's more difficult. So in my opinion we should have a good, well defined, well established guidelines so that every youth can at least have a good basis and it should be better than don't be an asshole. In my experience, someone who has that philosophy is an asshole more than not. Still, maybe it's at least a good start. We don't know how much of an asshole they'd like to be. There are some good guidelines out there. Humanists have some great ideas. Still, I think they lack conviction.
In short, we are left to struggle with morality on our own whether we are religious or not. I believe that if we sit down and study morality objectively, perhaps close to scientific study rather than subjective and emotionally, then we owe it to the next generation to do that and clearly define life's best practices so they won't struggle, like we do.