The Drifting Definition of Morality

I was recently having a discussion with an atheist over abortion and he was arguing against it, based on his own particular moral views.  He was convinced that society would eventually come around to his way of thinking, overturn RvW and the whole world would be rosy.  So I asked him how he justified his own views of morality, pointing out that the human species routinely changes our views on what is moral and what is not.

300 years ago, it was considered entirely moral to keep slaves, in fact, many argued that it was immoral to let the clearly inferior black people be responsible for themselves because they needed the guidance of clearly superior whites to live worthwhile lives.  Today, that has changed. 100 years ago, women were clearly thought of as inferior citizens, unable to vote, unable to make their own decisions, and in many places, unable to own property in their own name or control their own money.  Today, that has changed.  50 years ago, the idea of gays having the same rights to marry was an immoral idea because gays were thought of as immoral people.  Today, they are able to legally marry and are, at least in most places, thought of as completely equal to straight people.  Things have changed and they continue to change, we aren’t moving toward a moral singularity where everything is going to be moral and perfect and just because there just isn’t any agreement on what constitutes moral perfection.  Every generation thinks they’ve got it all figured out.  Every generation thereafter thinks they were wrong.  Today we think we’re right.  Our children and our children’s children will invariably think we’re immoral monsters.  That’s how the world actually works.

But no, for him, he’s convinced that we’re reaching some kind of moral perfection.  He doesn’t use that term but I think it fits. For him, mankind is achieving a more rational view of morality.  How he defines that in any objective manner is entirely beyond me.  When you can’t get people to agree on what constitutes moral behavior and what does not, how can you ever decide if we’re headed in the right direction?  And even if you could get a consensus, how do you test that that consensus is objectively correct?  And if you can’t do either of those things, we’re right back to where we started, with morality being subjective and nothing demonstrably getting “better” or “worse”.

Of course, none of that really matters because most people don’t like it when you don’t accept their closely held moral ideas, in fact, they get downright nasty about it.  I’m not  going to say that’s what this guy did because he didn’t, he just stopped responding when I wasn’t willing to buy into his beliefs about morality.  I just thought it was interesting that even self-professed atheists can have the same kind of emotional triggers when it comes to very subjective moral views.

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