Can an Atheist Be Moral?

I read an article the other day accusing theists of claiming that God is the basis of morality and therefore an atheist cannot be moral. Just so we are 100% clear with each other: I’ve never heard a theist make this argument. The author of the article is making the classical mistake of conflating moral epistemology (knowledge of moral facts) with moral ontology (existence of moral facts).

Christopher Hitchens did this all the time. I always loved listening to Hitch debate, but he made this categorical error in almost every debate he was in. At some point in the debate he would put forth a question to the audience like only he could, “Name me one moral action that a theist can take that an atheist cannot.” Obviously, Hitch would say it much more eloquently. But he completely misses the point. The moral argument for God’s existence isn’t that atheists don’t know how to be moral, but that on atheism as a worldview there is no objective grounding for morality. The moral argument is often put forth like this:

  1. If God does not exist there are no objective moral facts.
  2. There are objective moral facts.
  3. God exists.

How does one arrive at the conclusion that theists are saying atheists can’t be moral? Of course they can! Christian theists believe that all people – including atheists – are made in the image of God and through the natural law that is present in all of us have knowledge of the eternal law which includes objective morality. All people know right from wrong, whether they believe in God, or not. I’ve never heard a Christian theist say otherwise.

The issue the atheist faces isn’t that they don’t know morality, but they can’t ground it objectively on their worldview. On the atheist worldview there can be no objective morality because morality can’t be grounded external to the human mind which was produced by natural selection of random mutations. It may be your preference not to murder, but you can’t say that it is objectively wrong. It may be beneficial for the survival of our species to act morally, but why should anyone value the survival of our species? What if someone doesn’t, can you say objectively that they are wrong?

The problem isn’t that the atheist doesn’t know morality, of course they do. My atheist friends put me to shame. The problem is that the existence of objective moral facts isn’t coherent with an atheistic worldview, yet we all observe these moral facts on a daily basis. There must be something external to the human mind, something transcendent in order for there to be objective moral facts. No such thing exists on the atheistic worldview.

Whether theist, or atheist, none of us can be moral enough. We know intuitively that there is a moral law and that we break it from time-to-time. We rightfully feel guilty when we do something immoral. Our guilt leaves us looking for salvation. Thankfully, God provided a way for salvation at the cross of Christ where he paid the price for all of our immorality and sinfulness.

Atheists can be moral. Theists can be immoral. The existence of objective moral facts only makes sense on a theistic worldview. Jesus paid the price for all of our immorality.

 

 

143 Replies to “Can an Atheist Be Moral?”

  1. Well written piece. I’d have to say that it is no mistake that atheists take this tack it is quite deliberate as a debating strategy. Though sometimes I do think they do protest too much.

  2. Interesting post. All good things come from God, including humanity’s moral compass. I’m doubtful, however, that you will convince an atheist of God’s existence with an intellectual argument. I fear sometimes we as Christians get caught up in the debate of isms and theories when, perhaps, we should be content–yes, more than that, embolden–to answer in faith.

    1. What a thought! I just finished a course about reconciling Christian ideas to scientific ones in a world of science and intellectual reason. I cannot say intellectual arguments are entirely useless, but I do agree that faith is often neglected in such situations. If we believe in a God who did the amazing things that me and my fellow Christians believe he did, we should believe that he will be better at convincing others of his existence than our logical arguments.

    2. Christianity using gods existence and intellectual argument in the same sentence is an oxymoron. You have no evidence but faith, and faith and reason are diametrically opposed. There is plenty of evidence to suggest across multiple species that morality is a neurological function of processing positive and negative input and establishing societal equilibrium. It’s not complicated.

      1. I don’t know if you were referring to my comment directly or to the tenor of the thread but I will respond, nonetheless.
        You have made it very clear that God–any manifestation of Him but, seemingly, Christianity in particular–is not your cup of tea. Very well. God’s gift of free will is at work within in you, though you do not know it. You are an articulate gentleman and are able to present an intelligent argument. I’m glad for you. I wish you well.
        Christianity did nothing for you. It made you disillusioned and bitter against all things having to do with God. I’m sorry. No positivity came from the years that you spent grappling with faith. I hate that. It makes me sad. Your experience is completely different from mine. My faith, my Christianity has saved me, Yes, it has saved me in the afterlife, that is part of my belief process, but that’s not what I’m referring to here because, obviously, that means nothing to you. My faith–though it had eroded considerably–saved me from a drug overdose and a life of crime. That is something that I believe and something that I know from my own experience with God. I know it just profoundly as I know that I’m typing out this reply to you this very moment. So while you did not benefit from your relationship with God (and yes, there are many others like you who have not) there are many people like myself who owe their very lives to it.
        This is not an intellectual argument, of course. It is not an argument at all. It is a fact of my life and a manifestation of my faith.
        God’s blessings to you.

      2. I am happy for you and respect your feelings. My objective is not to destroy but to empower individuals like myself that we’re stuck in an unproductive relationship. For every conversion story there is a neurotheological explanation and I just believe the power is in us all already. All the best to you in your faith.

    3. I find it more strange that fellow Christians state things that seem to show bias when trying to convince Atheist to believe them.

      Example: “All good things come from God”. I’m not sure why one would make that statement, it’s like suddenly saying the sky is blue so I must be right. Saying part of a truth does not end a debate unless it’s the whole truth and both sides are forced to see it.

      Try this: All things come from God.

      This statement puts both the Theist and the Atheist in the same boat and forces them to have a more meaningful conversation.

      Atheist have the same strange tactics, such as we are evolutionary by design and are evolving into something that no longer needs God.

      If we are solely evolutionary by design, then this means that God is part of our evolutionary process since he is still a hot topic for discussion in the modern age. They never address why evolution needs to create God to survive but it’s self-evident given their understanding of evolution.

      The conversation between Atheist and Theist deserves an upgrade. We should be beyond the simple understanding by now and ready to start addressing the harder questions on the table.

      1. You make some commendable, compelling points. I, however, prefer to adhere to the “keep it simple mantra.” I am not an intellectual, so it is disingenuous of me to make an intellectual argument. I can go around and graze the bases of such arguments but that is not speaking in truth. When I speak from the tenets of faith, I am speaking truth. I have found that Atheists an non Atheists alike respond better to sincerity, even if it comes from simplicity, and, yes, even it comes from simple-mindedness. I will leave the philosophical and scientific arguments to those who are better qualified. Within Christ, we can all be useful with our different gifts and our varying ability to express and communicate our hope and faith and, most of all, our love.
        God’s blessings.

  3. Let me preface this by saying that I am a moral anti-realist, so I don’t have a dog in this fight.
    But…I am familiar with realist arguments, and your argument is a little off. Those who argue for an evolved moral sense which picks out definitive moral circumstances could point to other evolved structures – the appendix for instance.
    There is no ‘grounding’ for the appendix, in the sense you mean, but tell that to the person with appendicitis.
    Utilitarians could say the same: Who cares if Happiness is ultimately subjective, we all have it, from time to time, or do you think we don’t?
    ‘Objectivity’, in your sense, is problematic no matter who you are. That notion is the source of the famous question, “Is it good because the Gods decree it, or do the Gods decree it because it is good?”
    It seems you have a choice between brute fact (and one which may be variously accessible), demanding divine concession, or fiat (which is subjective valuation, even if it is the judgement of a single subject, in the monotheist’s scheme of things).

  4. I’ve been contemplating the same issue since a recent exchange with an atheist. He said that having an evolving sense of morality is better than relying on an old book and that religion is unnecessary for morality as we can see when bad things happen to undeserving people. I ask the question, what are the implications on the word “deserve” if literally everything is arbitrary, random, and meaningless? Is a middle-aged man fondling a small child objectively wrong in some way or is it simply deemed wrong by our ever-evolving society?

    1. Fundamentally, morally, spiritually – if what you are doing is harmful to others, even excluding yourself, it is wrong. Regardless of any God or belief, we know what is wrong or right. Atheist or believer, just don’t be an Arsehole!

      1. You say that regardless of any belief, we know what is right or wrong. The question is where that moral compass comes from and why we have it if we are animals and nothing more.

      2. There are unspoken mores, values and rules we all abide by. I believe our souls know. It’s not a tangible thing but an innate quality. Some have a better quality than others, is all. We are animals, complex, soulful,thinking animals. Like all earthlings

  5. 1 John 4:1 New International Version (NIV)
    On Denying the Incarnation:
    4 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

    I have tested ‘The Holy Spirit’ and I believe.

  6. Morals can be self serving. I don’t have to believe in God to generally avoid murder. If I kill someone I have to consider the possibility that the deceased’s loved one will come after me. This would infringe on my ability to enjoy life. Moral living can be strategic – I can’t do something because society will hold it against me. No fear of God involved. Great post.

  7. Many atheists that I have know would never think of violating any rule at all. Yet, they think that they alone made that moral rule out of thin air.

  8. I was non religious most of my life. Now I go to church and shockingly my morals have changed not one bit. I have always known right from wrong (not to say I have always done the right thing, I am human after all) and it is as clear to me as the direction of the sun rises in the morning. I believe in God but I don’t need religion to tell me right from wrong anymore than I need to read the Bible to tell me where to put a green house. I have learned to quit judging others’ path to righteousness. I don’t care if a good person is a Christian, atheist, Pagan, Muslim, Jew. Hindu or other. There are many righteous atheists and wicked Christians in this world. Actions matter more than words.

  9. I understand your point!
    If there is no God then there is not absolute moral compass.
    Man as a collective decides what is and is not moral and that can change either over time or region to region. Island headhunters ( or Jihadist} don’t think is immoral to cut off someone’s head,

    1. KKL members have no problem lynching people… the phrase “kill them all God will know his own” was coined by a Catholic. Puritans had no problem hanging Quakers. Morals change over time for Christian and non Christian alike.

    2. God has never presented an absolute moral compass at all, especially in the Bible. Drip fed changing morality is about the most immoral thing a god could do if he existed. Mere men wrote the Bible, as an unchanging god is made a liar from the Bible’s constant immorality and flip flopping contradictions. The church lads decades and centuries behind in equality and freedom for all. The Bible is a set of Jim Crow laws designed to set one in favor of another.

      1. The last atheist I responded to did not reply. Maybe it is because I told him or her they had a bad case of ego inflation. You seem to have the same affliction since you write with assurance about things of which you know nothing.

      2. I spent 50 years as a Christian. Nothing ever added up to the words that were spoken. Where’s gods absolute morality. I’m listening. I have no ego inflation but am an inquisitive sort. Name calling when you have no answer seems to be the apologetic default. Show me an absolute morality from god is all I ask. We’ll keep it simple.

      3. I’ll cite to you what seems to me to be about as near to an absolute moral statement as I can think of. In Matthew 12:31, Mark 3:29 and Luke 12:10 it is written that Jesus told people that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven in this world or the world to come. I know that is not an argument for you since you almost certainly do not accept the Bible as expressing any eternal truth.
        So let’s go back to ego inflation. I have an inflated ego. I think almost everyone who blogs has one. So you say I am name calling when I am simply expressing a reality about our human existence. The problem with our ego inflation is that it keeps us from believing in Christ until we somehow, by the work of the Holy Spirit, get our egos deflated enough to accept we are not the be all of existence and come to a sense of our sin and the reality of our need for redemption.
        If immorality is doing what harms someone, then a person’s refusal to accept the work of the Holy Spirit in their life must be the ultimate of evil because it cannot be forgiven and dooms the person forever.

      4. Your using the Bible to prove the Bible, but I’ve never felt that Holy Spirit in all the years I tried. How can I reject something I’ve never had? I am not accountable to your idea as I have not been chosen to feel a positive emotion where I assign a supernatural element to it. All the feelings of positive and negative emotions are easily manipulated. I’ve seen countless people “feel the spirit” over outright lies. If this is all the morality you have it is certainly 100% subjective.

      5. Forgive me. What I wrote was not helpful to you. I dumped some things on you that you are not ready for. I should have been more sensitive to your bad church experiences and offered you sympathy for not getting the help you needed to find Christ when it seems that you were truly looking for him. I think you are hoping for something that will return you to a better relationship to Christ. If you think I could possibly help you let me know.

      6. Not really looking but thank you. What I did find when I removed the hairsplitting excuses that nothing added up. Comparing what we hear to what we see is at complete odds, and the entire western culture is raising their children in deception and cover up. Thank you for your kind approach, but when I hear the catch phrases of religion and compare them to what is actually seen outside the lens of faith, it is not true. Granted the lens of faith carries comfort for some, but it continues to put me in a position to align with something that is corrupted and immoral from its foundation. Faith before knowledge is a backwards approach that requires you to acquiesce the truth, then spend the rest of your life wondering if your crazy. I wish you well Walt. I am curious to know what absolute morality the church has ever had to offer? All I ever found was changing morality and Jim Crow laws. Like I state in my home page, all I ever needed to stay was one thing. I will paste that link to you so you understand my position. It’s a short poem.

      7. Secondly, your statement has nothing to do with morality, but your ability to compare your feelings against mine based on a scripture you’ve seemed to interpret to fit your needs of the discussion. All the hype about Christian morals and there are none. Always check the opposite of what you hear in religion to match up with what you see in the real world.

  10. I’m a Christian. This was very interesting. I don’t have friends that can answer the questions that I have. A few bits were over my head but I think I got the gist of what you were describing.

    1. Thanks Melinda. I try to keep things simple because I’m a pretty simple guy! By all means, ask any questions you have, we welcome all. We may not be able to answer, but we’ll give it a shot!

    1. I’m Christian. Never claimed atheism, but did have serious doubts in school. Plenty of friends from a wide range of beliefs including atheism.

  11. Hi, Haden. Interesting article, and I admit being on the fence about the subject of objective morality.
    But if we are to say murder and genocide are objectively wrong, and we need to find where that objective point is, it clearly is not the Christian God, as he explicitly murders and commits genocide.
    If bible god is moral, then morality is clearly subjective, based on the whim of God. We may be punished or not depending on his whim, but he clearly does not hold to a single standard of morality.
    What say you, kind sir?

    1. God has never murdered anyone. Ever. Murder is the killing of innocents. God has rendered justice to the guilty, and perfect justice as He is a perfect God. But murder is not part of the equation.

      1. Then that is a pretty stupid God, then. I mean, I could just take a child and raise them right to prevent any future transgressions. But you’re telling me that every newborn child should die and that’s moral?

      2. If God sees all of time, and knows the heart of EVERY man… and knows the outcome of every life and every decision, He knows precisely who is guilty – which by the way is ALL of us.

        You can never raise a child to not be a transgressor of God’s Law, that’s why Jesus had to die on the cross. We are incapable.

      3. No, just the folly of your argument. Training a dog to comply to commands is not training a dog to love its owner.

      4. P.S. there is only one God, and He is your God too. Even though you detest Him so much.

      5. Lol! Your god is funny. He does nothing you expect of him, nothing you ask of him, and appears nowhere. Are you sure he’s not out drunk and isn’t paying attention to us?

      6. Your heart still beats, your lungs still take on air… He’s your God alright.

      7. Me too. Your god just appeared to me in a burning bleeding heart Bush and told me to destroy everyone in the next town, making especially sure to stab the babies with a long knife. Catch you later!

      8. Call him weak, but He gave you that last breath you took. That heart that you cannot control, He allowed that to beat today. He has a purpose for that grace He is showing you.

      9. You can call him stupid and mock all you like, but your reality, which is your atheist worldview is an illusion. One day you will have to make a choice… and how you spend eternity will be based on that choice.

        I used to mock God just like you, actually worse… but He pierced my heart, He will pierces yours one day too, at least I hope.

      10. Ouch, you should probably see a surgeon about that.

        Lucky for you, I’ve read up on Janism. If you keep going around killing carrots and eating them, you are going to hell. It’s your choice to accept Janism, but there is hell if you don’t, so….

      11. Very interesting conversation between you two. I think it’s clear that Keith is advocating Christianity, while thespartanatheist is a Janist? Is that correct? I’ve read a little bit about Janism, but how would you describe it, thespartanatheist?

      12. No, faithinafigtree, I’m not Janist. I’m plain old atheist. I’m just not a fan of being threatened with a hell for which he has no evidence of it’s existence. He tried the old “well, we’ll see when you die” mob persuasion technique. I was merely reminding him that if he wants to play the guessing game of hell, he should probably consider religions where his way of life will still get him to hell.
        I like the Janists because they’re actually a religion of peace, unlike the pro-slavery and mysogenistic Abrahamic religions.

  12. It’s interesting thespartanatheist seems to think he caused himself to be born and apparently was in charge of his parent’s evolution. He also seems to assume that everything that exists came into being for his benefit. I think he suffers from a bad case of ego inflation. There seems to be a lot of it going around.

  13. This is a great topic to write on. A little piece of my issue with my previous faith was that morality looked exactly the same to me. Whether I was in church or not, actions always spoke louder than words. Excellent post. I think that these are solid topics to talk about.
    However, the idea in the bible as you know is not right doing but right being to use a cliché. By being reconciled to God through jesus Christ a person has access to forgiveness. Then out of that new creation comes the fruit of the spirit and good deeds. You just made me want to write a whole lot more lol

  14. https://thespartanatheist.wordpress.com/ https://helpmebelieveblog.com/

    God is our creator. He doesn’t destroy us, he creates us. Jesus came with new laws for God’s children,. 1. 1. Love God with all your heart, might, and soul. 2. Love your neighbor as your self. Never once has God had to go to the extent of killing babies to prove his existence to those of us who do not believe. The wicked, evil, satan, demons, of the spiritual world, use people to kill, steal and destroy. John 10:10. God does not kill. People do. People who are wicked can still call out to Jesus to help them become who God created them to be. I’m pasting a script I wrote. I hope it speaks to you.
    WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE?
    I decided to ask God this question. Written as a script

    Me: Why do bad things happen to good people?

    God: My darling, I never promised anyone a rose garden. I did promise to be with you and never to abandon you.

    Me: Yes, this is true.

    God: What do you consider that is not good?

    Me: Abused women, children, the elderly, animals…

    God: Ok. Do you think this is my fault?

    Me: No, but some people do.

    God: Sweetheart, it’s not. The day my covenant was broken in the Garden of Eden, people have made choices that have led up to the things that cause your heart to ache.

    Me: I know that story. I never thought about Adam and Eve’s disobedience causing people’s heart to ache in this day and time.

    God: Yes my dear. The story of my life.

    Me: We let You down a lot, don’t we?

    God: Never! I love “all” my children. There is nothing a child can do to separate my love from them. “I am” a forgiving God. “I am” a loving God. “I am” a patient God.

    Me: Hmm…It’s a shame your children didn’t take after their Heavenly Father!

    God: All things are possible when ” I am” included.

    Me: Included?

    God: People assume I will intercede or interfere in situations without being asked, invited, summoned or called by name. My Word tells you,
    I give freedom of choice, free will, the responsibility to be a decision maker to all. I did this so that people could choose to love Me. What good would it do for me to create robotic, heartless people? I do not will anyone to do anything. No one would need “my son nor I” if this were the case! “I am” is invited into a situation; sickness, loneliness, determination, dreams, hopelessness, desires, tragedy, you get the point.

    Me: I do. Do you think most people know this?

    God: When one truly knows that, I am and all that I am, they will know.

    Me: This is amazing. It sounds so simple but, yet, people tend to suffer through the trials that each day brings. I bet most people don’t know they cause their own misery. It’s too easy to blame You.

    God: I will test my children at times which in turn strengthens them. If they fail, I still love them. I love so much that I refuse not to give opportunities to excel. People say: Why did GOD let this happen? Blasphemy, I say! I gave the land to the people. You are responsible for how the land, weather, and atmosphere react. Everyone has access to power. There is power in “yes and no.” Use it! Temptation is a trick that satan uses to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10).

    Me: I never thought of “yes or no” having power. I think I get what You are saying.

    God: People ask the question; Why did God take my baby, my mother, my father, my grandmother, grandfather, brother, sister, friend, so on and
    so on. Your love for a child of mine is a precious gift that I give freely, yet my people turn from me and withdraw their Love from me when the time comes to bring my child home. As long as the physical body has breath, two processes will undoubtedly take place What I am about to reveal to you is the only exception to the word prediction. One is born and will surely die. I share this wisdom to ease the pain. To not accept this fact is when sorrow overwhelms my people. When this truth is accepted/understood, grieving will become a celebration as it should be. This fact has always been and will always be. “life is a cycle.” People who can not accept this fact lose their smile, laughter, excitement, enthusiasm, dreams, anticipation, joy, desires, outlook and sometimes faith.

  15. Totally solid stance, I feel you, 2 fist bumps and double high fives. Me? I don’t dig words like “moral” and “holy” and “righteous” and “abomination” and all those other Ye Olde Coin words that have been the unfortunate victims of a few centuries’ worth of the game “Telephone.” And let’s just say that there were more than a few deaf, dumb and blind participants that got the green light because Jesus is such a nice dude. People give derogatory meaning to words all the time and it pisses me off because not only do they ruin perfectly lovely words, no, the worst part about it is the intent, which is usually to hurt others. That’s just totally an Asshole move. As a life-long lover of words; written, spoken, sung, and most of the other ways they’re shared & delivered, I mourn the loss of beautiful words like “religion” “salvation” and, dammit, “amen.” When put in too many of the wrong mouths, they just lose their sparkle, poor darlings. Good thing the language of love doesn’t need words. 🙂

  16. Dear Haden,

    Thank you so much for stopping by my poetry blog and for following it.

    Having said that, I came over here wanting to bless you for blessing me with some internet attention. My perfect plan was to read your post and like it. However, I find that I must respectfully disagree with you here.

    Although years ago, I would have said and believed that atheists can be moral, I no longer believe that. Not that atheists can’t be likable, kindly, hardworking souls that the rest of us can learn from, love, and enjoy because of course they can. My problem is with the idea that an atheist living such a life can be labeled “moral” in the eternal sense. If being moral, ultimately, equates to living our lives fully for the glory of God and fully with the intent to point the world to God’s goodness, then it would follow that only those who are intentionally living their lives to please their Creator, however imperfectly they live out these attempts (and so only God’s people), are living “moral” lives.

    Why?

    Because the best a non-follower of God can produce on his own is a mere imitation of morality.

    As everyone knows, imitation and authenticity are two different entities.

    Thereby qualifying an atheist’s attempts at “morality” as simply another form of artificial goodness.

    I think that artificial goodness is, in the long run, far more dangerous an influence on those it touches than hefty “known” badness purely because of its seeming innocuousness.

    What makes artificial goodness so very bad? In a word, SEPARATION.

    In attempting to create one’s own artificial goodness, a person immediately divorces true and lasting goodness from its source: our loving Creator God.

    Anything that turns the eyes of the beholder from the goodness of God onto something lesser, though seemingly good in the short term, must, therefore, of necessity, be BAD.

    Just saying.

    You don’t have to agree with me, and it’s not my job to change your thinking, though I do want to challenge it.

    Whatever you do, be sure to know what you believe and why.

    Best Regards,

    “Gwennon”

  17. I’ve always found the morality argument for a god to be the absolute weakest for the simple reason that we have hard evidence that this thing we call “morality,” which is really nothing but a formative sense of good (positive) and bad (negative) behaviour, is a product of neurological processing power. The more neurons, the more accute an organisms understanding of it. Countless studies, across numerous species, prove this beyond any rational doubt. It is not a human phenomena, and its anything but complicated.

    1. I’ll wait to see those studies, but if its nothing more than neurons firing in the brain then there’s nothing objective about it. If my neurons say its okay to commit genocide, who are you to say otherwise? You’re just doing what your neurons say are right. It doesn’t work.

      1. Very few people are in favor of genocide. Even indigenous tribes that were murdered by Christians were living a peaceful life without god. (Bartolo da las Casas) first hand account. 1504. Total equilibrium and no concept of religion. You have to look around you and see, morality is a natural occurrence across species. They all find it.

      2. Here is one piece on human/neuromorality. It is interesting that a persons moral compass changes with disease and brain injury. The Texas clock tower shooter is a great example of how a tumor can create a serial killer, then once removed he goes back to his normal self. This is anything but difficult to see. People have different neuro connections and pathways. Alter them
        In anyway and morality changes. Hardly an ultimate morality from god when physiology changes it whenever these things happen.

      3. Physiology may affect moral epistemology, the question i have raised is ontological.

      4. That is a good fact dodging approach. Every time I hear that word I know we’re going nowhere.

      5. Theres a real difference between knowing morality and the existence of moral facts. If you think not, okay. Have a good one, man.

      6. What moral facts do you have from the Bible? What is your unchanging perfect moral compass from god? I am curious

      7. Its always wromg to kill for fun. Thats an absolute moral fact that exists mind-independent.

      8. I don’t think murder is ever fun, but it is a biblical staple. I won’t align myself with it nor approve it with hairsplitting arguments defending absolutely poor moral examples.

      9. So, the mind-independent part is ‘fun’ or ‘wrong’? Or is it killing, which is distinguished from murder and horrible accidents by attitudes? This is a harder problem than you make it out to be, and all you are offering here is an argument from incredulity.
        An argument for moral realism needs something much stronger than that, and an argument for moral necessity (which is what you want in the end) something stronger yet.

      10. Mind independent means it’s true no matter what you, me, or anyone else thinks. If Hitler had won the war and convinced everyone that killing Jews was right, he would still be wrong because genocide is wrong independent of the mind.

      11. That’s not what I asked; I’m giving you the notion of mind-independence.
        I’m asking how you wish to establish the mind-independence of something which so far seems to consist of ‘fun’, ‘wrong’, and ‘killing’ – all either purely attitudes or value-laden descriptions.

  18. Reblogged this on iwonder and commented:
    Everyone, no matter what they believe, can be moral. But if you are an Athiest, I ask on what is this morality based on? Check out this great post, clarifying that, (1) everyone can be moral, but that (2) not everyone has a basis to be, depending on their beliefs. Hmmm.

  19. I must applaud the calm ambience from which these words have been sown into the mind of the reader. Great job. GOD bless you, dear writer.

  20. The simplest argument (In my opinion) against God being the basis for objective morality is the following:
    1. Objective morality is independent of any subjects that applies it or it acts upon. It doesn’t necessarily care about what these subjects feel or think.
    2. Let us suppose God is the basis for objective morality
    3. That would mean objective morality is what God says is right or wrong.
    4. That would mean objective morality isn’t independent as it is dependent on God
    5. This is a contradiction
    6. Hence, God isn’t the basis for objective morality

  21. In truth, I have seen theists claim that atheists cannot be good because they reject God, since rejecting God is rejecting goodness. I’ve also seen certain subsets of Christian claim that members of other sects of Christianity cannot be Christians because they reject God’s truth, and rejecting God’s truth makes them not Christians. I’ve also seen atheists claim that agnostic atheists aren’t truly atheists since they don’t outright reject the notion of God(s), because you can only truly be an atheist if you reject the notion of God(s).

    Of course, these are all forms of circular arguments, but even pointing out that the logic isn’t effective in furthering their position or persuading their audience, some people still persist with it. That said, no matter what someone’s religious stripes are or aren’t, some people refuse correction, even if it’s done gently and patiently. Just have to hope one day they’re ready to hear it or realize it.

    As a note, tact and patience are not my forte, so I end up pulling the “we’ll have to agree to disagree” card.

  22. Atheists are able to derive their morality from many things. For example, murdering people is more than likely wrong. A Christian would show us commandments that explain this. As well as biblical passages.

    An atheist would point out that we are social creatures that evolved using social cohesion as a major survival adaptation. Cooperation and group trust are indicative of a successful society. Thus, murdering people betrays that trust.

    1. At best, not murdering is good for survival, but says nothing about objective morality. Again, completely beside the point.

      1. Objective morals can be measured using data and statistics. Social trust is an objectively measurable value. So is infant mortality. So is lifespan. So are polls that measure happiness. So are health profiles. Test scores. Equality of opportunity can be objectively measured as well.

        Many of these things are lessons that faiths address, sometimes directly.

        An atheist would assume that the positive outcomes individually and survivability of the species is a biologically justified pursuit. Morally, it makes sense to have a thriving, healthy, happy population.

        Objective morals would be things that encourage those outcomes.

        It is in this way that atheists and believers can be unified. Stealing, killing, adultery, rape….these are often directly condemned by church leadership. An atheist would likewise agree, suggesting that these things are activities that promote low social trust, and negative outcomes for the species.

        This is morality that can be quantified. Objectively.

        A computer could run a selective algorithm regarding the most ideal place. Conducive to long life, reproductive health, social trust, personal happiness. It would, without any faith at all, select a region to live in.

        I’d be interested to know if you think objective morality wouldn’t be designed specifically with this data in mind. Would not a God (particularly a loving one) inform the flock of objective morals based on objectively measurable outcomes? Of course, His knowledge would be complete. Infallible. But, through study, we can get a glimpse of perhaps the reasoning employed by God.

      2. I think its great that what we know as objectively evil is also measurable by these standards. But the standard of society trust is obviously subjective to the society? What happens when someone says they dont care what the society thinks? Upon what ground does the society stand to judge the person wrong? They can appeal to the masses, but this isn’t objective. The masses change.

      3. You are right to ask these kinds of questions. Society is certainly no reliable judge of morality, and you are wise to notice it.

        However, societal trust is not the same as societal values. Trust, put simply, is the measure by which people are willing to engage with one another. For social animals like us, this is critically important for survival. Likewise, we can note that societies with the highest levels of social trust are the ones that correspond with these ideal outcomes, like low infant mortality, low poverty, low crime.

        This is not causality, it is correlation. But I’d be willing to be there is a slight feedback mechanism between social trust and these outcomes. It would make a fascinating research program.

        “What happens when someone says they dont care what the society thinks?” Another cunning question. The beauty of social trust is that you don’t HAVE to care. In times of low social trust (the inquisition, Nazi regime, barbary slave trade) you’ll find that people are acutely aware of societal impressions. Because manipulating those impressions is going to keep them alive. No one wants to rock the boat, right?

        But in areas of high social trust, you will notice there are free thinkers like yourself. Those willing to break the mold. This is possible because you can trust you won’t be hung by the neck in a public execution. You know our society will protect you. Many of us, in fact, would die to protect you and your rights. Even though you are a stranger.

        Society isn’t a perfect judge of morality, nor is the mob. The Church isn’t either. Or the legal system. Or cousin Robert from the other side of town. No one. While there may be objective morals by which we guide ourselves, there are also Situational Ethics that govern the exaction of morals in certain moments. The metaphorical “Jean Valjean” situation.

        These moments have so many variables that we tend to rely on a couple of things to help us mortals solve them. Knowledge of all the information. A cooperation of minds. Referencing our moral principals in the form of laws or religious teachings. Debate.

        Gravity is objectively real and measurable. But how it operates within certain parameters is up for debate. In fact, we are just realizing that it CAN be made to behave differently. How we implement that, the methodology and motivations, are being heavily scrutinized and debated. As should our morals.

      4. No human can define morality or be moral, atheist or whatever. The point of Christianity is that people who realize they need help in being made moral can receive that transformation through faith that Jesus is the Son of God. Only God the Father can define morality and only the Holy Spirit can work in people to make them righteous.

      5. If only God the Father would write them down, it might expedite theological seminary!

        But your main point is secure. Finding moral guidance in faith is done for billions. BILLIONS. They do no harm to others. They are charitable, and peaceful.

        There are though, some who do violence in the name of various gods.

        The problem with statements like “Only God the Father can define morality” is that it limits perspective. Now, under that philosophy, you will be blinded to any moral argument made by anyone who isn’t your god.

      6. Thanks for your response to my comment. However, I think you missed my point. Morality is God’s business. Our effort should be in the direction of faith and obedience. You say that I would be blind to moral arguments, I would prefer that you think me unimpressed by moral arguments. We do not need human-invented morals, we need the ability to live, think, and act in accordance with the moral understanding God has given each one of us.

      7. If I were an omniscient being I would let you know my morality. As it is I have to do the best I can with the knowledge I have been given. Are you doing the same?

  23. You stated — “The existence of objective moral facts only makes sense on a theistic worldview. Jesus paid the price for all of our immorality.”

    I disagree with you on two fronts.

    The first disagreement is from a Christain perspective, (of which I am a Christain). You stated that Jesus paid the price for all of our immorality but I don’t see that in the bible. The Bible states that Jesus paid the price for our transgressions. Those transgressions were against God.

    Hebrews 9:15
    Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

    The second disagreement is when you stated this: “The existence of objective moral facts only makes sense on a theistic worldview”

    This idea would be to easy for an Athiest (or anyone) to dismiss given the fact that there is no such thing as a “theistic worldview”. There are thousands of Christain denominations that do not agree with each other and on top of that, there are additionally hundreds of religions that are non-Christain. This statement is completely nonsensical.

    1. 1. If you do something immoral, you’ve transgressed.
      2. All of those denominations/religions are theistic worldviews.

      Thanks for commenting!

      1. I didn’t say every transgression is immoral, but every immoral action is a transgression.

      2. I know what you said that’t why I asked the question.

        To some religious people eating beef is immoral, so I was asking you if you also believed that to be true.

        Do you?

    1. @The CreAtheist

      You stated — “Can i get an example of objective morality?”

      My response — When a human judges gameplay between two identical AI’s that are both capable of cheating, were both made by the same company, and not nothing is known about who programmed them.

      1. I think that might be a really bad example of objective morality. Everything is literally subjective in that sentence. Peoples judgements, robots that might cheat but might not on a game. Idk might just be over my head.

      2. I know we have AI playing games against AI , while being monitored by humans.

        They all work for the same company with the same programmers.

        ob·jec·tive
        (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

        mo·ral·i·ty
        principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.

        So if programmed to cheat against each other the human watching will have no feelings for it. The behavior is still wrong (because it’s cheating). And there is no bias because it’s all from the same programmer and company.

        This seems like it would then be objective morality from the human monitoring if the made a moral call either of the two AI’s behavior while playing.

        I just took you statement as a challenge to see if I could find objective morality. No big if you don’t want to answer.

      3. I got ya, thanks for the answer.
        I think you said capable not program to cheat not forced so when it cheats it’s random. When it happens, the two humans judge it by looking at the rules of the game, the questions are why are these rules objectively moral, are these rules part of all games or just subjective to this game. I think it’s one of those situations where you can show objectively right and wrong but only by asking if it is, making it subjective. I’m looking for the objective morality not tied to a judgement call on the rules of one game. One that is 100% moral or immoral no excuses.

      4. Cheating is always 100% immoral. So when the AI cheats it is in fact committing an immoral act. The motive for doing it is irrelevant.

        With that said the person observing has no feelings about it since we eliminated bias. This should meet your criteria unless we are changing the definition of cheating.

        cheat
        1. act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination.

      5. Not a 100%, if we go with the definition of cheating,
        1. acting dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination.
        This is subjective, If there’s a game in where my losing will cause others to suffer, the suffering part would trump the cheating part, and my morals would have to switch to avoid the worse. At that point we loose the 100% immoral status. We could say suffering and cheating are both wrong, but the immoral part would be if I didn’t cheat and allow others to suffer by loosing, suddenly the rules of the game are not as important as the outcome. At that point the moral thing to do would be to cheat. So cheating has to be subjective if it could be looked at as the positive thing to do at some point.
        I believe it would be immoral to let suffering occur by not cheating on a game, others might believe differently but that’s the subjective part.

        So adding AIs and a couple of non bias judges muddies up the conversation since we are not taking about the rules of the game, those judges look for the rules and judge by those terms. They are not showing an objective right or wrong, they are showing wether the rules are being followed or not. We have a lot of people on this planet that say they know the rules for the game we are playing, but they all seem to be different, so we’re living under subjective morality depending on what rules you want to follow.
        I like the concept of the AIs and I know it’s difficult, but do you know of anything that is immoral objectively, a moral rule followed by everyone regardless of beliefs, culture etc…

      6. I do know of one thing that is immoral objectively. It is the one thing everyone finds to be immoral and is not influenced by personal feelings.

        Lying.

      7. You are correct but we are not talking about moral lies we are talking about immoral lies of which every single person on earth has one.

        Every culture, tribe, group, individual, etc has a form of lie that they consider to be immoral. It’s the one thing we all agree on (immoral lies). Lying is universally immoral, although I will grant you at a more granular level the particular lie itself changes but not the concept of an immoral lie.

      8. I know where your coming from because you are looking at a lie with a negative outcome vs positive but they are both lies. When you separate the lie and call it a immoral lie and a moral lie we made a judgement of about the lie that is considered subjective. It’s like saying “well there are moral sin and immoral sin” changing either the definition of morality or sin.
        There also the question about the person lying. They might believe lying is the most moral thing they can do, so there we would have two people with two conflicting views about what a lie represents. Majority consensus doesn’t equal to objective, if one person disagrees it becomes subjective.

        In my point of view, if morality was objective, we should have a lot of easy examples about what’s a no go for everybody, easy as a thou should not kill kind of scenario but it seems everybody struggles with the challenge, and yet still believe in objective morals. When I’m asked about subjective morality I can give endless examples, why is it so hard to give one of the opposite view of my view is incorrect. I struggle with the idea of a person holding something to be truth but not being able to give an example, and at the same time dismiss all the contrary evidence. I can’t imagine using that technique on anything els.

      9. Have we considered that possibility that there is no such thing as a moral lie?

        Are assumptions being made that there is such a thing? The person telling us that there is a morally good lie may be , in fact, lying to us.

        Lying seems to be universally immoral everywhere when money is involved. This I would say is hard objective morality.

      10. Would you and The CreAtheist stop wasting electrons! Neither one of you is moral so why do you debate a thing that is not in your natures or capabilities.

      11. I am also not the moon but I like to talk about it from time to time.

        If we only talked about what we were then every book at the library would be titled “Human”, how boring would that be,.

      12. A lie is an intentional false statement. An intentionally false statement can be the most moral thing you can do depending on the outcome of the situation. I would consider that there’s no such thing as a moral lie if I couldn’t give examples of them.
        Lying when money is involved is also subjective. If you are making a deal, prices are subjective. So if you tell a person I can’t give you this product no for cheaper than x, but you could, you lied, you just didn’t want to give it under x amount. It’s not immoral you just set your line, but it’s also a lie. Something’s are immoral something are moral, and something’s are just amoral. They are all subjective and decided case by case. Is gay marriage immoral, to some people yes, to some people it’s moral, to me it’s amoral, nothing to do with right or wrong. We can’t all be right so it’s subjective. Pretty simple. The fact that we are having this conversation and cannot agree is proof of subjectivity. Once you get one thing everybody can agree on then we have objectivity until then it’s subjective.

      13. Why do we all have to agree?

        I could say we are all on Earth and someone would disagree but that opinion should be invalid.

        There are invalid opinions that should be ignored once we establish a universal concept.

      14. I think it would be valid because some people are in space. But I know what you mean, there’s examples that you can make of things that people are not in agreement that are more than likely true. The conversation about everything being subjective is definitely a longer one, but when it comes to morality we have to look at it clearly. Objective morality means wrong regardless of opinion, but morality is based on opinion. If opinions are different, and morality is an opinion, people have different morals making them subjective. If we agreed on the morals then they would be objective. So agreement is important to objective morality specifically since it’s in the title.

      15. Maybe we should back up one step, for you and me what is more important truth or morality?

      16. For me I would say they are both important but truth would have to be over morality. The reason being truth lives outside of morality, morality without truth can cause a lot of harm. Truth without morality is almost a prerequisite because truth is just a statement.
        Like the statement “This is a sentence.” is not moral statement, but is a fact. The statement “i volunteer at a shelter.” is also a fact, but can be interpreted as moral. Once you deduct the fact, the statement becomes a lie, and can be seen as immoral depending on why it was said. So if I didn’t know the validity of a statement or action, it’s very difficult to reason it’s moral worth.

      17. I would agree truth is over morality.

        Now can we use truth to dismiss moral arguments that are not truthful?

      18. You can use truth to come out with a reasonable conclusion about a moral argument.

        I’ll keep answering but are you seeing how easy it is to show subjective morals vs objective. Every immoral scenario that we could create could become moral or amoral.

        Even a scenario of someone getting brutally attacked. We could say it’s wrong in most occasions, but you will find people that are just into that and will pay people to beat them up. I think it’s weird as hell but they see no problem with it. They even enjoy it. So if there isn’t a situation where morality is objective, it’s subjective. See if it was objective, every example of a moral principle would be imposible to refute. It would be clear as day, the same way I could refute every example of objective morality I’ve ever thought of, and this is why I ask for an example, I’m always open to changing my mind if enough evidence is presented.

  24. Some of we atheists also shucked off the guilt thing. Look – everything you do is moral to you. But maybe not to someone else.

Leave a Reply