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|Ethics & Morals|
An individual's first duty is to himself. He can not achieve long-range happiness for himself, nor be a useful member of society, if he does not do everything he can -- within his means -- to take care of himself.
He must strive for excellence of autonomy, or self-reliance. He must learn to take responsibility in and for his own life.
He must strive for excellence in intelligence and reasoning. He must learn to use better judgment and to make wiser choices. Reason may not solve all problems, as sometimes it is necessary to choose the least of many evils, but it is the most reliable method we have for making decisions.
He must strive for self-discipline. Especially regarding his passions and desires.
He must have self-respect. He must have a healthy sense of his own identity.
He must have self-confidence. Especially regarding his unique creative powers, talents and abilities.
He must have high motivations. The willingness to tackle new new things leads to interest and excitement to life. The lack of such willingness leads to boredom.
He must have a positive attitude toward life.
He must have a joy in living. Even if there would be a better afterlife, there is no reason to dispense the importance of this one. This is the only life you have. This is the only life you know. Make the most of it!
He must have health.
He should strive to increase and vary his autodidactic education, especially in the world of increasing complexity and information overkill.
An individual's second duty is to learn to live smoothly with others. While he can not hope to fully control others, he can make life easier, simpler, and more enjoyable for everyone by practicing certain universal, time tested principles.
The moral principles are not given by any god. They are not the inventions of religions or religionists, although the latter want you to believe that they are.
These moral principles are not absolute. They may conflict with each other. (A believer in Madrid believes that a believer in Constantinople is a heathen, and visa-versa.) They may involve priorities. They are tested and perfected by their consequences in practice. A brief and a somewhat arbitrarily organized listing follows:
The keeping of promises.
The avoidance of hypocrisy.
The avoidance of deceit.
Non-initiation of force.
Mutual consent in sexual matters.
Responsibility for oneself, and for one's children.
Responsibility for accepted obligations.
Respect for the freedom of others.
Respect for the privacy of others.
Indication of deserved gratitude or appreciation.
But! Not equality! It simply does not exist in nature except in anthills and beehives.
If in doubt, work it out yourself using objective reasoning and the Golden Rule.
The Golden Rule
Treat others as you would want them to treat you.
Or, its negative...
Don't do unto others what you would not want them to do unto you.
Some form of the above "rules" have been evident in most civilizations in history. This is not surprising. It is merely the result of a combination of an individual using objective reasoning, and the hope that others he will react with have used similar reasoning, and have reached a similar conclusion.
Remember! The Golden Rule is not the law of any god. The Golden Rule is a simple and easy to understand and to follow rule evolved by man. Remember also! The Golden Rule is not the monopoly of any religion or religionist no matter how much they rant and rave to claim that it is.
Trivia: Jesus Christ's preaching the Golden Rule make him about as remarkable as any garden variety taxpayer discussing the weather.
Christian ethics can not be taken seriously by any thinking person. There are at least four major reasons for this observation.
First, Christian theology teaches that this life is a mere practice session, of little or no consequence in the greater scheme of things, in comparison to "The Life To Come". A minor inconvenience, sort of like waiting around in a bus station before boarding time. Therefore, those Christians who make an effort to promote ethics -- of any kind -- in hopes of doing some good, simply do not understand their own theology.
For example, a Christian who saves a fetus from being aborted, is actually delaying that soul's arrival in the never-never of heavenly bliss. (We do not promote abortion, per se. For one thing, it has negative implications regarding racial survival considerations.)
Second, Christians are not taught philosophical ethics, that is, that one should strive for right actions based on objectivity and rational thinking. Rather, all Christian ethics are based on scare tactics, such that when a Christian does think of misbehaving, he is faced with the fear of displeasing a ghost in the sky who will send him to hell.
One can not truly be considered good if his goodness depends wholly on a system of punishments and rewards.
Third, the philosophical viewpoint is that since there is no personal God, there is no Christian God, and therefore all Christian teachings of ethics are only tools of the religionists, based on myths, lies, and partial truths, whose sole purpose is to keep the religionists in a very profitable business.
Fourth, the historical viewpoint is that Christianity has not worked! A study of history shows that Christianity has done more harm than good. And! Look at the world today (2011)! ..... Two of the most universal developments -- the abolition of slavery, and the rights for women -- have occurred contrary to Christianity. It took the Russian commies only about 70 years to realize the failure of their system. Christians have not learned anything in 2000 years!
Firth [yes, a bonus argument], although we do not believe in reincarnation, a la Hinduism or Buddhism, the Karma Theory makes much more sense for philosophical primitives groping for answers than the Christian theory. Karma simply means equitable rewards in the next life. Good people come "back" into a good human life, and bad people come back into a bad human life, or worse, to something lower, say a denizen of a chicken coop. ..... Compare this to a criminal being given The Last Rites. Hey, goody! I'm home free!
Good deeds -- What is the easiest thing in the world for me to do? Christianity teaches: To help others! Yeah, verily we say unto thee: Provided I can somehow scam somebody else to pay for my good deeds.