A lot of my discussions about morality stem from the fact that I´m an atheist. Some of my theist friends have struggled with the fact that I´m a moral person, but not a believer in any theistic moral code. I´m not the only one dealing with these issues, and I thought I´d write down the tenets from which I draw my own morality.
The primary principle of my morality centres on violence, defined as any outside physical act or threat of such act upon another individuals life. An individuals life defined as the physical aspect and the fruits of his or her labor.
I. The only valid use of violence, is in self defense.
This is the most important rule I live by, as it is the base of most of my ethical and political viewpoints. Most societies on the planet have a moral code similar to what christians call the golden rule "Do unto others, as you wish for them to do unto you". The problem with that sort of rhetoric, is that it opens up a slew of options I don´t care to think about. If you want me to whip you, that does not give you a moral right to whip me, aso.
This first principle is first and foremost about the right of individuals to live in peace.
By putting the use of force and violence as the caveat of my moral code, I could still end up on different sides of many political issues. Abortion is a good litmus test for any moral code, so I´ll stick to it for now.
II. An individuals life corresponds to brain activity, not its bodily functions
Am I for or against abortion? Notice that I´m not using pro-choice or pro-life, seeing as that doesn´t adress the issue at all. I´m for abortion, but there is a limitation on that.
A. The fetus must not have developed to a stage where it has brain activity. This constitutes an individual, and thus is protected by the moral code.
B. Should the fetus pose a threat to the life of the mother, the mother has every legal right to defend her life or the life of her child. This comes under the umbrella of self defense.
C. Any fetus that has not developed brain activity is potentially a person, but until that stage is merely a part of the mother and does not have any rights.
This moral principle also covers any basis for stem cell research.
III. People are responsible for their own actions, and should be held accountable for them
If principle one is about the right to live your life in peace, principle three is about being held accountable for your actions. I believe mankind is essentially good, but I know there are people with underdeveloped empathic skills. There needs to be a framework of law that protects the weak against the strong. A house owner might have to protect himself against a corporation that seeks to steal his land, aso.
That is not a carte blanche for a government to limit what you can do to yourself, but what you can do to others. As violence is defined as outside force.
This is typically where people jump in and say "what about the poor?". In a state where the government takes care of you, individuals are no longer held accountable for helping others. The vast majority of people would be happy to help others, but when you´re met with the mantra The state should do something it´s not easy to build a case that THEY should do something. After all, they´re paying taxes, and then they should be able to tell the government what to do. Right? Except, we all know that that´s not what happens in real life.
By limiting the scope of government, you are making people responsible for their own actions and inactions.
Most moral discussions can be dealt with by keeping to these three core principles of morality.
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