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General Discussion
Atheism, Lucid dreaming, morality & ethics

I am an Atheist and a lucid dreamer; I've been lucid dreaming for over 20 years. My quick definition of lucid dreaming for anyone who has never heard the term is someone who becomes fully conscious and aware while still remaining in a dream state and having the ability to alter their dream content at will. You can do almost anything and the dream experience feels as real as if you were doing it in real life.

I have a question that goes out mainly to any other atheists that are also lucid dreamers. Are there any lucid dreamers out there that think that they could (or would want to) commit an act of immorality in their dreams? I think are our minds "programmed" at an early age to make acting in a way that we have been taught was immoral almost impossible even when there are no repercussions for the act.

I have recently got into a discussion with a theist about where I get my morals from if I don't believe in a "higher power" that will hold me accountable. Apart from the Chill I get down my spine when I hear someone make a tacit admission that they may only be acting morally out of fear of being punished, I also got to thinking; are humans only moral to avoid the consequences that come with acting immoral or unethical like losing the respect of friends and peers, or being sent to jail etc. I have seen discussions about if you could commit the "perfect crime" and get away with it without any consequences would you do it, but these talks can of course only be theoretical...except if you are a lucid dreamer. I have played out all kinds of crazy scenarios in my sleep but I have never done anything in my dreams that I would consider immoral or unethical in real life, not because I couldn't do them (and get away with it without anybody ever knowing about what I have done) but because it would not be an enjoyable act for me; it is something I actively avoid because it would feel bad.

The way I see it, ethics are a direct consequence of empathy. We get to know some actions are wrong because we see other suffer because of them. And, since we don't want to suffer ourselves, we agree to be nice to each other. It's a win-win scenario. Psychopaths lack empathy by definition, and that's why they're held responsible for some quite gruesome crimes. On the other hand, autists also lack empathy but, interestingly, most of them are unable to break rules given from the outside, which makes their behaviour "ethical".

In the case of your lucid dreams, I guess your empathy isn't magically turned off, and for that reason unethical things still disgust you.

You could just dream that these people want and desire for you to do your dirty dirty deeds.

As to the substance of your message, "you" is the combination of your conscious and subconscious mind. Being that you learn by sucking information from your surroundings, it is likely that you grew up within a society where, on balance, violence was denounced and compassion was encouraged.

As such, this would likely be a base influence in the construction of "you" over time in that it was evident to some degree in most interactions between beings throughout your life - interactions that largely proved fruitful for both parties to one degree or another.

The presence of empathy has an evolutionary analogy in small (not necessarily human) hunter gatherer groups, whereby giving food to your neighbor increase the likelihood of future reciprocation. One evolutionary strategy is to remove your competitors from the competition - another is to create a symbiotic relationship where they come to rely on you. This results in a situation where your competitors/neighbors success is enhanced by your success creating an empathy positive feedback cycle creating a more resilient population.

Unfortunately in sufficiently large populations, there is enough giving to go around that small subsets of the population are able to take advantage of the situation by receiving the benefits without participating in the "work". Benefiting in this way drives many of the "problem" societies face.

As to the point of acting morally, it is not necessary to only do it to avoid punishment (i.e. no jail - regardless of religious perspective). There is however evidence that larger percentages of the population "contribute" in much more frequent and substantive ways when there is actual or perceived punishment for those not contributing yet still reaping the benefits.

For an enlightened being, having the 'rules' brainwashed in to them from a young age is not required for them to act morally. They act morally as they understand that their actions have consequences on other people - consequences that they may have experienced themselves from other peoples actions and know how it felt.

Knowing directly what it feels like or at least being able to imagine what it could feel like (through stories of experience or observations of others' experiences), the empathetic being also understands the premise of increased possibility of future reciprocation. The essence of the golden rule. Animals who live in some form of social structures have been observed to demonstrate at least a rudimentary version of the golden rule.

Basically, all that waffle above means that you are having a deep instinctive reaction that makes the idea of doing wrong by others very unpleasant. This is a sign of someone who has developed a strong moral compass and, more importantly, judges ones self upon those values such that it informs your actions and perhaps even desires.

Metal fan is absolutely right. I believe we atheist have got to start stating how it is well observed that animals have altruistic traits so we can shut down this bullshit last minute argument that theist try to use since nothing else works for them lol.

Very good point you bring up, I can (rarely) lucid dream, but from time to time (maybe every few weeks) have one. Anyway, I never thought about your point before, and again it is a good one! I am not atheist, but not Christian by any means. My belife is Karma, so I could never do anything to harm anyone for the reason of Karma I suppose. I have never remotely tried to harm anyone in a dream, no matter how lucid it was. Keep in mind, sometimes my dreams are more controlable than others. I just try and have as much fun as I can, and enjoy what I am doing. The end point I can make is this, my brain would have to "create" a danger for me to harm someone, or a "reason" for me to do something un-ethical. So far that has not happened yet.

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