An Atheistic Ethic

This is a continuation of a discussion about an atheistic ethic. I've already argued that any ethic must be based on who we are as human beings, and that Christians obey God because of self-interest. Then I argued that what we humans want above all else is to be happy. I also dealt with the book of Ecclesiastes which seems to claim we cannot find happiness without God. I'm arguing that rational self-interest can be a sound basis for an atheistic ethic.

I will not be arguing for selfishness as a basis for an atheistic ethic. My dictionary defines selfishness as being “concerned with your own interests, needs, and wishes while ignoring those of others.” It implies that a person is out for himself alone. It implies the unholy trinity: me, myself, and I. Rational self-interest is something different. A selfish person will lack things that make him happy. A selfish person will not gain the things in the list I mentioned earlier that make for happiness. Being short-sighted, he is only interested in instant gratification, not in the long-lasting benefits of being a good friend of others. A selfish person will usually reap what he sows. He will experience loneliness, anxiety, guilt, self-destructive tendencies, few trustworthy friends, depression, fear, paranoia, disappointment with life, possible jail time, and a short life. To the degree he is selfish he will be alone. He will be ostracized, and even banished from society. He will not work well with others and probably be fired for laziness, or for not getting along with co-workers. So he will probably not reap the financial rewards he wants to make him happy.

What I’m arguing for is different. It’s a rational self-interest that seeks the long lasting benefits of happiness. This means denying oneself instant gratification for those better, more beneficial, long lasting goods.

Next time I’ll argue that everything we do contains an element of self-interest to it.

20 comments: