It is often claimed by theists that atheists are incapable of being moral, because atheists lack a “moral authority.” I was recently confronted with the notion that it is possible for me to practice “good ethics”, but not possible for me to be moral, because I don’t have an acting moral authority, outside myself.
I don’t want to beat around the bush too much, so here are some definitions:
Pronunciation: mr-l, mär-
1 a : of or relating to the judgment of right and wrong in human behavior : ETHICAL b :expressing or teaching an idea of right behavior <a moral poem> c : agreeing with a standard of right behavior : GOOD <moral conduct> d : able to choose between right and wrong
2 : likely but not proved : VIRTUAL <a moral certainty>
1 : the lesson to be learned from a story or an experience
2 plural : moral conduct <a high standard of morals>
3 plural : moral teachings or rules
1 : of or relating to ethics
2 a : following accepted rules of conduct b : following professional standards of conduct
3 : sold only on a doctor’s prescription <ethical drugs>
Function: noun singular or plural
1 : a branch of philosophy dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
2 : the rules of moral conduct governing an individual or a group
Now that we have the definitions right in front of us, the theist’s argument doesn’t hold water. The definition of moral has the word “ethical” right in it. Moral and ethical are synonyms.
Let’s refer to: 2 moral 1 : the lesson to be learned from a story or an experience
It clearly states that morals can be learned via a story or through experience. Theists claim to learn their morals by way of reading their holy books. Atheists obtain their morals by way of life experiences. Whether those experiences be their own or experiences they’ve witnessed or read about, atheists are learning from experiences. Which means, atheists are moral.
Now for: eth·ics 2 : the rules of moral conduct governing an individual or a group
The definition of ethics clearly states it is possible for an individual to have one’s own set of moral rules governing one’s conduct. Thus, atheists can be are moral. Words mean what they mean, whether you like the definition or not.