Class Warfare Blog

November 7, 2019

Morality and Manners

Filed under: language,Morality,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 7:40 am
Tags: , ,

I frequent the Quora site and since I am interested in atheism, I see the question “If you don’t believe in God, how can you be moral?” and its many variants over and over and over (and . .  over . .  <sigh>). . . . This “question” is more of a statement than a question and is usually categorized as a “Gotcha Question,” right up there with “If God is all-powerful can He make a rock even He cannot lift, Father?”

An interesting variant of this question showed up this morning in the form of “Atheists, do you respect other people’s beliefs though you yourself do not believe in a deity? It is morally right to respect people’s beliefs, right?

The obvious answer is “no;” respecting other’s beliefs has nothing to do with morality. Consider Hitler’s profound belief that Jews were abominable and were to be exterminated. But then I realized that the questioner hadn’t used the best words available for his question. I believe he meant to say “Atheists, do you respect other people’s religious beliefs though you yourself do not believe in a deity?” Just because others often compound ordinary beliefs with religious beliefs, we should not fall so easily into that trap. If this is the intended question, and it seems to be, then the Hitler example is not all that good, although one could make an argument that the hatred of Jews was promulgated by Christianity. So, how about another example, how about Pope Urban II? Around the year 1095, he gave a speech calling for armies to embark on a crusade to the Holy Lands to take back Jerusalem from Muslim rule. Between 1096 and 1291, this speech was the impetus for eight major expeditions into the “Holy Lands” where untold numbers of unspeakable acts of savagery resulted in 200 years of bloodshed, and more than 1.7 million deaths. Should I respect old Urban’s belief that Christians are the rightful rulers of Jerusalem as opposed to the Jews who were there first or the Muslims, who were in possession of it at the time, both of whom are partial “rulers” of that city today?

I think there are many religious beliefs that are less mainstream that most people would find it difficult if not impossible to respect: any Scientology belief, for example.

Another immediate thought I had was it should be good manners to strive to understand someone else’s belief before adopting an opinion on that belief and to not just dismiss it out of hand. And, then . . . manners . . . manners? Why are there no questions regarding how we can have manners without God? Why are their no Christian manners? Surely manners are on the same spectrum with ethics and morality. Even if it were not immoral to covet one’s neighbor’s spouse, surely it would be bad manners? Aren’t manners intended to help us live together amicably, just like ethics and morals?

And where did manners come from when there isn’t a peep about them in the holy scriptures? Surely manners couldn’t have been created by people and, ugh, be like, you know, subjective and everything.


  1. “I see the question “If you don’t believe in God, how can you be moral?” and its many variants over and over and over (and . . over . . ). . . .”

    I agree! One thing that really bothers me about that, to be honest, is the fact that, it seems, most people who say that have no clue about ethical philosophy. Many of them probably don’t even know that there are quite a few alternative views that are, quite plausibly, just as useful and reasonable as religion, of which I can name several:

    •Social contract theory
    •Kantian ethics

    About Hitler, I say about the “He was an atheist” crowd that, while I’m not an expert on his private life, I don’t think we should downplay the influence of Christianity (Martin Luther was a vitriolic anti-semite, for instance).

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by anondoc2 — November 7, 2019 @ 9:19 am | Reply

    • Hitler was a Catholic and never foreswore that affiliation. I think he believed that religion was necessary to control the masses, but you can read more than a few passages in Mein Kampf that support a position that he “believed in God.”

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 7, 2019 @ 11:03 am | Reply

  2. Excellent, post Steve!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Arkenaten — November 7, 2019 @ 10:33 am | Reply

  3. Humans refrain or act because of what others will think—and will even claim to believe in god for the same reason. This is not a super secret religious beginning, but has been forged for millennia out of individuals desire to be treated fairly.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by jim- — November 7, 2019 @ 11:04 am | Reply

    • Well, you know that and I know that, but…. :o)

      On Thu, Nov 7, 2019 at 11:04 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 7, 2019 @ 11:06 am | Reply

      • It only is even remotely interesting when they try to inject their god into the equation. That really muddles the easiness of the explanation.


        Comment by jim- — November 7, 2019 @ 11:10 am | Reply

        • Especially since they are so inept at doing so …

          On Thu, Nov 7, 2019 at 11:10 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by Steve Ruis — November 7, 2019 @ 11:15 am | Reply

  4. one could make an argument that the hatred of Jews was promulgated by Christianity

    One cannot just ‘make’ an argument here. That IS the reason. Hitler got his ideas directly from Luther, the founder of the evangelical church.

    Beliefs don’t deserve respect. Facts do. You respect the fact.

    Liked by 3 people

    Comment by john zande — November 7, 2019 @ 11:20 am | Reply

    • Respect, I was taught, is earned. It seems to be something one has for other people. I do not see how ideas and beliefs can “earn” respect.

      On Thu, Nov 7, 2019 at 11:20 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 7, 2019 @ 11:38 am | Reply

      • Well, you can respect the thought behind an idea. Communism, for example, is well-grounded in principle, meaning and intent, but in practice it’s prone to failure due to humans being human.

        Seems the word ‘respect’ is a tad too broad to be useful.

        Liked by 2 people

        Comment by john zande — November 7, 2019 @ 12:50 pm | Reply

        • I agree regarding the “broad” part and I see people grabbing whatever words that seem to connote what they want to say, whether that is part of those word’s heritage or not. :o)

          Has anyone ever tried democratic Communism? The only communism I have seen tried is Totalitarian Communism (Russia, China, several satellite countries of those two). The difference between Totalitarian Socialism and Democratic Socialism is night and day, so might that not be the case for communism, too?

          And wouldn’t it be interesting to survey people as to their preferences as to whether they preferred certain functions to be of individual responsibility or collective responsibility. (Obviously, these need to be defined carefully but simplicity is best: individual responsibility is “you pay and you get what you pay for” and collective responsibility being “we all pay and we all get what we pay for.”) So …. Postal Service? Collective or Individual? Military? Collective or Individual? Healthcare? Collective or Individual? Mandatory Schooling of Youths? Collective or Individual? Food? Collective or Individual? Housing? Collective or Individual? Taking Out the Garbage? etc.

          At the early stages no blending is allowed because obviously some things are done in both arenas, but we would be asking for what people would prefer, best guess, no waffling

          I wonder whether people would fall more on the collective or individualistic sides. I suspect most people would prefer a bit of both, which means we really should be developing ways to determine how collective out system will be, not addressing 100% this or 100% that.

          On Thu, Nov 7, 2019 at 12:50 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


          Liked by 2 people

          Comment by Steve Ruis — November 7, 2019 @ 1:07 pm | Reply

  5. Great post again sir. I was taught that respect has to be earned and it should be a two way street. How can any of us respect another (individual, group, organization, etc.) that does not respect you/me?
    Trust is also one of the things that needs to be earned along with loyalty.
    The family of my current wife has more than a few who attend church regularly and pray before meals. I respect their way of living in that I don’t even think of taking any food until the prayer is done. Call it good manners or anything else you wish, even a cop out if it makes any feel OK. I have been telling any and all who ask my personal philosophy that I do mine, and it continues to evolve even at nearly 72 years of this life, that I have my own and it is like the old joke about the Chinese menu, one from column a, 2 from column b, a desert, a drink, etc.. When I come across a new idea, one I’d not seen or looked into, if I like it, it gets incorporated into my overall world view. I try to be flexible.
    Oh, on the odd times I do attend any church service it is only for weddings or funerals. When they all pray, I just sit or stand as the rest do, but my arms are straight my my view is straight ahead, I do not bow my head nor fold my hands. My life, my choice. I try to cause them no harm/disrespect, but refuse to ‘join in’.
    I keep telling any who say they want to follow me, do so at your own risk. I am not, never was, and refuse to be a leader. Hells bells, I have no idea where I’m going. I’d really like to visit hell, should it exist because so many have told over my sort of longish life I should go there. Being so highly recommended, I figure it is worth checking it out. At least I won’t be bothered by any of the fake xtians there. I don’t think the devil ever made me do anything and as to gods, well to paraphrase a good old movie; “Gods? Gods? We don’t need no stinking goods’. Well, sure don’t have any use for them other than studying comparative religions and myths.


    Comment by Walter Kronkat — November 8, 2019 @ 1:37 am | Reply

    • You and I could be brothers from other mothers we are so much alike.

      I attended an art show in a church (secular art, not religious) and one of the church busybodies objected to my wearing a hat in the main body of the church (it was a nice straw hat being summer). I was tempted to tell her I was Jewish and that it is sacrilege to not cover one’s head in a house of prayer, being a bit of a tail twister, but then I thought “your house, your rules.”

      I do wonder why wearing a hat could be an offense against their god, but since nothing makes any sense at all, I didn’t see why that had to, either.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 8, 2019 @ 9:55 am | Reply

      • Steve,
        Yeah, now I almost sort of do remember you. We went to different schools together. LOL, that is something we said to each other in my time in the USMC. All in good fun and only with those we got along with well. Brother from another mother was also one of the things we said, but not as often.
        I really enjoy your blog as you post on a wide variety of topics. One thing,you make me think and that is a damn good thing.


        Comment by Walter Kronkat — November 8, 2019 @ 10:52 am | Reply

        • Yeah, thinking is one of the things I am trying to hang onto. (The knees and waistline are long gone.)

          On Fri, Nov 8, 2019 at 10:52 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by Steve Ruis — November 8, 2019 @ 11:40 am | Reply

  6. Excellent post and comments.
    When I first encountered the question of ‘respect’ for religious beliefs from my atheistic point of view, I looked up the meaning(s) of respect. I realized that I tolerate many things about most religions, but I respect few. People have a right to their thoughts and beliefs. I have a right to my opinion of the same.
    In his book, ‘The Better Angels of our Nature,’ Steven Pinker uses old written instructions regarding manners to make his case for how we humans used to be. When some other atheists are rude and ill mannered, I feel it reflects poorly on me (I shouldn’t). I do not respect them because of their behavior, their beliefs/opinions I usually agree with.
    I may not respect most things about the Jewish religion, but I abhor antisemitism, which is still a huge problem today. How we treat each other matters (was said to me by a Catholic Priest in the confessional regarding sin).
    I see religion similar to how I view smoking. I understand why people do it, but it is still wrong and generally unhealthy.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Bill — November 8, 2019 @ 11:40 am | Reply

  7. Bill,
    Great comment sir. One small thing, Jews are Semites, but so are Arabs and if I recall some other folks as well. Being anti-Semitic is not exclusively being anti Jewish. I told a young person recently that I despise the country of Israel and her immediate reply was; “Oh you hate the Jews just like me.” NO! I hate nobody/nothing. Hate, done properly, and I was taught by Dad and my grandparents to do whatever I did properly, hate done that way takes way too much time and effort. The fact that true hate is so very negative notwithstanding. Now, I can and do despise some people and things to hell and gone. The zionists who run the zionist entity (Israel) is one of them, but I have the same feelings towards any and all xtian zionists.
    I like your last sentence very much. Oh, I am a former tobacco smoker, but do not tell others they must quit the habit. Took me 50 years of enjoying at least 19 of every pack of 20, even more enjoyable when I started rolling my own. Tis a bloody damn hard habit to quit.


    Comment by Walter Kronkat — November 8, 2019 @ 7:46 pm | Reply

    • Like you, I am not a fan of the state of Israel, but it has nothing to do with the Jews or their religion, but their realpolitik, their policies. They have been fostered in a history of staunch, even fanatical opposition, but that is not an excuse.

      On Fri, Nov 8, 2019 at 7:46 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 9, 2019 @ 10:27 am | Reply

  8. I have known a handful of x-ians in my day, that I can respect. They do their thing, they live their lives as best they can under the umbrella of religion, and they do not take it upon themselves to interfere with other peoples business, proselytize at every opportunity, make a scene praying in public, or look down upon everyone not like them. Nor do they practice being extreme hypocrites (wife beating, child abusing, womanizing, drunk every night and sober enough on Sun morn to make it to church types.) Those who can be religious and and carry it well, without being prudish assholes, I can respect.

    The religion, not so much. Nothing there to be respectful of.

    Morality has no religious requirement. Those who tend to think so are generally the sort of intolerable asshat x-ian I’ve already alluded to.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by shelldigger — November 9, 2019 @ 3:22 pm | Reply

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