Theists are right to be concerned about morality. We should all be concerned about morality. But one of theists biggest shortcomings is when they think their beliefs and worldview give them a corner on either being moral or understanding morality. In fact, studies shows that theists find atheist to be morally repugnant even before getting to know them.
In my previous post, I suggested six ways to counter the moral disgust of theists toward atheists. The sixth strategy was to offer a Naturalistic Moral Model to describe how we atheists talk to ourselves about morality without gods, spirits or demons. Each atheist (just as each theist) has a different internal model, of course, but this post describes my naturalistic moral model — the model I use when I think about the important question of “Why do Good“?
CAVEAT: First, let me register a very important caveat As I written before, I feel what motivates people to do good are rarely the reasons they tell themselves or others, though we are all tempted to think otherwise. Morality doesn’t work like that. With that dismissing caveat on the table, here is the three-pronged (post-hoc rationalization) model that my mind uses to answer the question “Why do Good?“:
- Outer Happiness and Success: pragmatic survival skill
“Doing Good”(DG) is a skill. Having the ability to do good can be very useful at times. But Doing Good can often, from a pragmatic perspective, be much more effective than doing bad.
For example, I use practice a martial art called “Aikido”. Some people are drawn to Aikido because they see it as a gentle method of self-defense when you use an opponent’s energy against the opponent and thus do not initiate violence. They see the techniques themselves as gentle. Such people are very hard to train. It does not take long in Aikido to see how dangerous the techniques can be. And I think the real power in Aikido is to know how to use a technique to be BOTH gentle and harmful. The power of the practitioner is the ability to do both and then the wisdom to know when to use which. It is an effort when teaching macho men or women how to be flexible, soft and gentle. Likewise, it is almost harder to teach a pathology soft people how to be strong, truly protective or damaging. Pathologically soft people may have all sorts of complex psychological reasons (wrapped in ideology) of why they are averse to power, winning and damaging others.
- Internal Happiness: the macro affects the micro
A model I use to understand myself and others is the multiple-self model (see here). Using this model, I feel that as I recognize my other selves and act toward them as: understanding yet discerning; kind but firm; thoughtful but wise; generous but careful … then I will increase the likelihood of my own happiness. Now, I also feel that if I practice these moral skills in my external relationships I will strengthen these habits to improve my internal happiness.
- Habituating the Moral Muscle: practice, practice, practice
Doing good does not often come naturally. Doing Good is a hard skill to establish. So you should practice doing good even at times with others will not notice and in small things so that it becomes a strong, reflexive skill that you can count on when otherwise it would be very hard to will into action. Doing Good is a muscle.
Oooops: I am sure you have noticed that I have not disclosed exactly what actions I feel are “moral” or “good”. Yep, that is a whole other discussion for the distant future. Sorry! 🙂
Further reading: See my other Personal Morality posts here.