For most of my life, my sense of morality, of “right living”, of “how and why to be a good person” has been embedded in, explained by, and supported through my Christian faith. It always seemed important to understand and explain the foundations of this moral sensibility: we model our lives after Jesus, and we do it out of love for, and in response to, God’s love for us. I think I took for granted that there was a (seemingly) coherent story about where my morals came from and on what basis I can/should lead my daily life.
Okay. So now I am in this agnostic place, unsure of God’s existence in the first place, and definitely questioning the theologies, the foundations, I have based my life on for decades. And it feels really unsettling to no longer feel like I can rely on the Christian story as the underpinnings of my morality.
But then I think, do I really need a coherent back story (a la Christianity) to help me choose between right and wrong? My boyfriend said the other day that he thinks true morality is something you don’t need to discuss: we inherently know what’s right and wrong to do in any given circumstance, and we learn it through life experience.
And another atheist friend once said that he chooses to do good not to gain some heavenly reward, and not to avoid punishment in hell, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. I thought that was pretty powerful: choosing to do good as its own reward, not to please God and not out of fear of God’s wrath.
But the main point is this: neither of them feels a need to have an elaborate back story of why something is right and wrong; they both seem to think that we simply know and can make moral choices without a specific or articulated philosophy/theology.
I’m not sure what I think about this – is it just my introspective, reflective personality that craves a story I can latch on to and be inspired by? Is it dangerous not to have one? Does it matter?
I think I am still trying to get my head around these morality questions, so if any of you can help me clarify what I’m even trying to sort out, I’m all ears...