What morals do atheists have?

Unknown Soldier

New Member
Many atheists are decent people, obviously. I have to wonder, though, where any atheist gets her or his morals without God. With God you have a basis for morality (moral standards). Therefore, with God your morality is objective which is to say your morality is not just based on your opinion. If morality is based on the individual's opinion, then what's to keep that person from doing horrible things because it seems right to her? Yes, evils have been done in the name of Christ too, but in those cases those who did evil in his name were doing so against what Christ said.
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
Many atheists are decent people, obviously. I have to wonder, though, where any atheist gets her or his morals without God. With God you have a basis for morality (moral standards). Therefore, with God your morality is objective which is to say your morality is not just based on your opinion. If morality is based on the individual's opinion, then what's to keep that person from doing horrible things because it seems right to her? Yes, evils have been done in the name of Christ too, but in those cases those who did evil in his name were doing so against what Christ said.
Where does God get his morals from? What makes his moral opinions objective?
 

Unknown Soldier

New Member
My understanding of God and morality is that God is innately and then objectively good, so all that comes from him including the moral standards he reveals to us are objectively good. So he doesn't "get" his morals from anywhere but is morality itself. He doesn't really have opinions on morality or anything else because he knows all, and that includes all moral knowledge.

So where do you get your morals? How do you decide what is the right thing to do?
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
Many atheists are decent people, obviously. I have to wonder, though, where any atheist gets her or his morals without God.
This list isn't complete, but it should be a pretty good starting point. As an atheist I get my morals from:
  • Society
  • Culture
  • Zeitgeist
  • Personal experience
  • Empathy
  • Logic and reason
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • ps. oops, forgot my parents
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
My understanding of God and morality is that God is innately and then objectively good, so all that comes from him including the moral standards he reveals to us are objectively good. So he doesn't "get" his morals from anywhere but is morality itself. He doesn't really have opinions on morality or anything else because he knows all, and that includes all moral knowledge.
If God is objectively good then goodness is independent of God. To say that God (supernatural and personal creator of the universe) is morality itself (abstract relations of rights and duties between sentient beings) is clearly a category error. And moral 'knowledge' presupposes objective moral facts independent of the knower, again making God unnecessary for morality.
 

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
Many atheists are decent people, obviously. I have to wonder, though, where any atheist gets her or his morals without God.
The same places theists do.
With God you have a basis for morality (moral standards).
No, you don't. If you did then the world wouldn't be full of Christians who disagree wildly about what is and isn't right.
Therefore, with God your morality is objective which is to say your morality is not just based on your opinion.
It is based on your opinion. The religious merely formulate their morals (as do the non-religious) and then claim that they're what God wants.
f morality is based on the individual's opinion, then what's to keep that person from doing horrible things because it seems right to her?
Nothing. Which is why throughout history, people have done horrible things.
Yes, evils have been done in the name of Christ too, but in those cases those who did evil in his name were doing so against what Christ said.
In your opinion. The people who did those evils thought they were doing what God wanted.
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
So where do you get your morals? How do you decide what is the right thing to do?
I consider the objective effects of my potential actions upon the intersubjective interests of other sentient beings. Our fundamental needs and values are the product of millions of years of evolution as a social species, lending our moral conscience, intuition, and reason some degree of objectivity independent of the narrow subjective interests of any given individual. Not so for God, whose moral values can exist only as an arbitrary and inexplicable matter of brute fact, with no causal explanation or conceptual justification at all.
 

Authentic Nouveau

Well-known member
Many atheists are decent people, obviously. I have to wonder, though, where any atheist gets her or his morals without God. With God you have a basis for morality (moral standards). Therefore, with God your morality is objective which is to say your morality is not just based on your opinion. If morality is based on the individual's opinion, then what's to keep that person from doing horrible things because it seems right to her? Yes, evils have been done in the name of Christ too, but in those cases those who did evil in his name were doing so against what Christ said.
That can be explained by fitting in.

Dawkins said in an interview: “What's to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn't right? "
 

Authentic Nouveau

Well-known member
This list isn't complete, but it should be a pretty good starting point. As an atheist I get my morals from:
  • Society
  • Culture
  • Zeitgeist
  • Personal experience
  • Empathy
  • Logic and reason
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • ps. oops, forgot my parents
No honoring of atheeist clerics? Ring leaders?
no honoring Mohammad who was over your BaiHai ? "growing up"
 

treeplanter

Active member
Many atheists are decent people, obviously. I have to wonder, though, where any atheist gets her or his morals without God. With God you have a basis for morality (moral standards). Therefore, with God your morality is objective which is to say your morality is not just based on your opinion. If morality is based on the individual's opinion, then what's to keep that person from doing horrible things because it seems right to her? Yes, evils have been done in the name of Christ too, but in those cases those who did evil in his name were doing so against what Christ said.
From where do we get OUR shared human morals?

Untold centuries of trial and error as we have learned to adapt to and adopt those expressions of interpersonal exchange that serve best the well being of both the individual and society itself

I sum OUR moral standard up like this:

To consciously and purposefully inflict needless harm upon another human being is evil and immoral
*Anything else is, at least, morally acceptable if not morally good*

I agree, God offers a moral standard that is objective in as much as it matters not what you and I think of it
What He says goes - if He says it's good then it's good and if He says it's evil then it is evil

However, the moral standard that you and I share is, in reality, very often at odds with the moral pronouncements that emanate from God

For example, God commanded in the OT that unbelievers be put to death
It was, in the eyes of God, good and moral to murder an unbeliever

You and I and most every other human being on earth are in full agreement that it is horrifically evil and immoral to kill a human being for the so-called 'crime' of not believing in God

Why, then, do you defer to God's clearly inferior morality?
Why do you insist upon suppressing your own better judgement for His?

Yeah, His morality IS objective {in the sense that it exists apart from our human thought and feeling}
So what?
Does this somehow magically transform an immoral act such as killing an unbeliever for being an unbeliever into a moral one?

Furthermore, why is it a problem that OUR morality is subjective?
Yeah, people sometimes do horrible things because they think it's right
{perhaps like killing unbelievers because they believe that they have been commanded by God to do so}
What is your point?
 

Tiburon

Member
My understanding of God and morality is that God is innately and then objectively good, so all that comes from him including the moral standards he reveals to us are objectively good. So he doesn't "get" his morals from anywhere but is morality itself. He doesn't really have opinions on morality or anything else because he knows all, and that includes all moral knowledge.

So where do you get your morals? How do you decide what is the right thing to do?
What does objectively good mean? How is it communicated to us?
 

Tiburon

Member
That can be explained by fitting in.

Dawkins said in an interview: “What's to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn't right? "
What was his answer? Swap the Nazi's and the Jews for the Israelites and the Amalekites and it seems your God finds it perfectly acceptable.
 

J regia

Well-known member
You like the Amalekites who did child sacrifice?
Killed Jewish women and children?
Is that why Joshua et al were commanded to commit genocide (Deut 7:16) and why they butchered all the children and unborn (Deut 2:34 7;2 Josh 6:21 8:26 10:37) and why it was OK for the true believers to eat their children if under siege (Deut 28:53) after bashing them on rocks (Psalm 137:9)?
 

Tiburon

Member
You like the Amalekites who did child sacrifice?
Killed Jewish women and children?
Evidence? Just as the Nazi's did, the first step is to dehumanise the enemy. They must have learned it from the bible. Then it makes the genocide OK. Your all powerful God couldn't find a better solution?
 

Komodo

Active member
Many atheists are decent people, obviously. I have to wonder, though, where any atheist gets her or his morals without God.
I know that morality and geometry are very different in very many ways, but maybe start with this: if somebody said to you, "where do you get the truths of geometry from?" you would probably be puzzled by the question. Geometric truths aren't things which "come from" some authority, or need to be made "objective" by the word of that authority. Euclid did a great job, for the most part, but we don't really need Euclid to understand geometry.

I'd say I "get" my morality in a somewhat analogous way to how Euclid "got" his geometry. Start with certain propositions which seem intuitively compelling, like "people are equal to each other in the most important ways; things which are equal to each other ought to be treated equally," and voila, you have the Golden Rule, without requiring Scripture, like you can get the so-called Pythagorean Theorem without Euclid. You try to expand from there into the hard cases.

With God you have a basis for morality (moral standards). Therefore, with God your morality is objective which is to say your morality is not just based on your opinion. If morality is based on the individual's opinion, then what's to keep that person from doing horrible things because it seems right to her?
I know that many people feel this is an unanswerable demonstration of the superiority of theist morality, but I don't at all see it. Counter-question: If morality is not based on the individual's opinion, but on the proclamation of some "infallible" authority, then what's to keep that person from doing horrible things because it's said to be right by such an authority? There's no lack of such candidates.

If I'm told by you, "You can go wrong if you go with your opinion, but you can't go wrong if you go with what Christ said" and I'm told by an Iranian, "you can go wrong if you go with your opinion, but you can't go wrong if you go with what the Ayatollahs say about the Quran," etc., how do I get on the "objective" course? Presumably by following my subjective judgment of which leader seems most infallible.

Now, if my subjective judgment of such things is trustworthy, why shouldn't it be trustworthy enough to answer moral questions on my own? And if it's not trustworthy, then there's no point in asking me to trust one over the others.

Yes, evils have been done in the name of Christ too, but in those cases those who did evil in his name were doing so against what Christ said.
"You can go wrong if you go with your opinion of what Christ said and what it implies, but you can't go wrong if you...."

Can you complete that sentence? If you can't, you can't claim that you possess an "objective" algorithm for reaching the right moral decisions.
 
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The Pixie

Active member
My understanding of God and morality is that God is innately and then objectively good, so all that comes from him including the moral standards he reveals to us are objectively good. So he doesn't "get" his morals from anywhere but is morality itself. He doesn't really have opinions on morality or anything else because he knows all, and that includes all moral knowledge.
So if it was in God's nature to torture babies, that would be objectively good?

The alternative is to say that that cannot be God's nature because torturing babies cannot be good, but that would then concede that God follows an objective morality that exists outside of him (in some abstract way perhaps), and you say that that is not the case.

Therefore, if God says chattel slavery is acceptable, would you say that chattel slavery is therefore objectively good?
 

Komodo

Active member
If morality is based on the individual's opinion, then what's to keep that person from doing horrible things because it seems right to her? [. . .]
It seems to me that theism vs. atheism is just a wash here, that things go basically like this:

A) If an individual chooses to follow a kind of Humanist moral system, because in her opinion that is the best one, she'll probably do fine, for the most part, dealing with typical moral issues. However, if that individual chooses to follow a kind of Solipsist/Hedonist moral system, in which only her temporary pleasure matters, she may do some terrible things.

B) If an individual chooses to follow Christian morality as he understands it, because in his opinion Christianity is true, he'll probably do fine, for the most part, dealing with typical moral issues. However, if that individual chooses to follow a kind of Thanos worship, in which the best thing that can happen is the destruction of humanity, he may do some terrible things.

Where's the difference?
 

Whatsisface

Active member
Many atheists are decent people, obviously. I have to wonder, though, where any atheist gets her or his morals without God.
But you seem to think that atheists do have morals, so they get them from somewhere, but not from God, right?
With God you have a basis for morality (moral standards). Therefore, with God your morality is objective which is to say your morality is not just based on your opinion.
With this we are back to the classic question, is something wrong because God says so, or does God say so because it's wrong? The further question is, are actions wrong in themselves? I think so, and It's all too often easy to see why.

I can see that rape is something that's wrong in itself because of the harm it causes. Being a sentient creature capable of reflection, I can see it causes harm. I am well aware of what harm is and do not desire it for myself so i know others would not want it either, so all that and probably more is what makes rape wrong in itself. Most people do not need a God to tell them this, and I don't think that rape is wrong is just an opinion.
 

Temujin

Well-known member
Many atheists are decent people, obviously. I have to wonder, though, where any atheist gets her or his morals without God. With God you have a basis for morality (moral standards). Therefore, with God your morality is objective which is to say your morality is not just based on your opinion. If morality is based on the individual's opinion, then what's to keep that person from doing horrible things because it seems right to her? Yes, evils have been done in the name of Christ too, but in those cases those who did evil in his name were doing so against what Christ said.
Atheists get their moral sense from the same places as everyone else. The first source is evolution. I don't mean that evolution tells us what is right or wrong. Evolution gave us the capacity for a sense of right or wrong. As a social species, such a sense is advantageous. It promotes altruism and cooperation. Some other animals, notably primates appear to have a rudimentary moral sense. This in-built evolved conscience is an ancient part of our genetic heritage. This fits with the fact that much of our moral standards are universal, such as the wrongness of child rape, while there are also variations about other issues such as abortion or homosexuality.

Secondly there is the huge influence of society. Where and when you live has an obvious effect on what you consider to be moral behaviour. The influence of religion and politics will be felt here also.

Then there is the particular circumstance of your upbringing, your parents, education, childhood friendships and the like.

Finally I would mention personal experience of some events can alter one's moral views. Those who have close encounters with sexuality and gender issues, abortion, end of life care, drug use or whatever, may well find that their views on the moral questions raised by these issues may change.

I think that the notion that we check with some external authority before deciding what to think about a moral issue is nonsense. We each have a conscience, all similar because we are all human, but all different because we all have different experiences and upbringing. The obvious variability in moral views, irrespective of faith, is clear evidence to me that morality is an emergent, subjective quality of the individual, not an external, objective and immutable standard.
 
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