Materialism is necessarily amoral
got into an interesting discussion with someone online about whether or not there is room for objective moral principles in a materialist world view (contrasted with an idealist one)...it's a bit lengthy, philosophical, and nerdy, but here is my response:
"My opinion is that in a purely materialistic worldview there is no objective reason for people to obey moral laws—people can choose to be moral, but there is nothing objective compelling them to be. It is a controversial position because we live in an era where science, academia and popular society in general are dominated by materialist, naturalist and atheistic thinking-- and many people advancing such positions often have a difficult time coming to grips with their often tragic ramifications.
I think the easiest way to understand why objective morality can’t be supported within a materialist framework is to look at why it does work in an idealist one. Fundamentally materialism puts forward that everything that exists is matter and energy, and idealism puts forward that everything is consciousness. If the idealist is right nature and everything in creation are manifestations of a singular Ocean of consciousness in much the same way that all the thrashing and rolling waves on the sea are just varied manifestations of one ocean below it.
The implication of objective moral codes and morality in general—and consequently the reason that so many people rebel against them-- is that life has an underlying universal purpose or goal. The implication of this is that we need to learn to be behave, that there are rules and standards of conduct that we must adhere to in order to lead a successful life. The world’s oldest metaphysical and spiritual teachings, among other things, put forward that the purpose of life is for each individual to uniquely manifest some attribute of the Infinite before resuming a conscious identity with it. Under this view moral precepts are those rules and standards of behaviour that, when followed, facilitate an expansion of consciousness that will eventually lead us to resume our identity with the Universal Spirit.
Thus moral injunctions like “love thy neighbour” “thou shalt not kill”, “thou shalt not steal” and so on are not arbitrary—they are rooted in the understanding that we are all waves on the same Ocean and that there is a fundamental spiritual identity between all people. Thus the REASON we shouldn’t hurt, kill, lie and be mean to others is that despite the fact that it appears on the surface that we are distinct individuals, the truth is that we are all children of the same Spirit—one in essence, and therefore to hurt and steal from another person we are effectively hurting and stealing from ourselves. A careful analysis of universal moral precepts, the ten commandments etc. indicates that they all designed to facilitate unity and connectedness, and do away with disharmony and selfishness.
Contrast this with a materialist way of looking at the world. In materialism all that exists are atoms and energy—there is no ocean of Spirit or consciousness underlying and unifying all material forms—just a bunch of fundamentally distinct particles and beings. Since there is no inherent unity of all forms it becomes impossible to assign a universal goal to life—everything becomes discrete and arbitrary. The Darwinian maxim “survival of the fittest” is a logical offshoot of ontological materialism, as is “the ends justify the means”. Both of these provide a tacit and implicit condoning of any behaviour should the right circumstances demand it…whether said behaviour violated moral laws or not. It is of course possible to for there to be morally good materialists, and there are many good reasons for people to be moral—but there is nothing to compel it for everyone, it cannot be made objective. In a materialist view of the world—but there is nothing to logically moral behaviour for everyone, no underling spiritual unity to make us all brothers—to the materialist morality is at most an arbitrary choice. "