Surprise: Atheists Don’t Lack Morals!

Did I say atheists have no morals? I don’t THINK I said that…

Atheists really like to fight against us ignorant theists who say they have no morals.  We’re the backwards hicks who take instruction from a book written by ignorant goat-herders who believed the earth was flat and that the sky was a dome that contained the sun, moon, and stars (all of which circled the earth!).  What do we know about morality?

Atheists are so enlightened that they’ve thrown off the shackles of God-belief and are doing the right things because they’re the right things, not because some ancient patriarch shakes his finger at you from 1,000 years ago and says, “Do it or I’ll spank you!”

So of course they don’t lack morals!  In fact, they’re more moral than religious people — the vague statistics quoted above don’t lie!

Sensing the sarcasm yet?

I hope so.  Because I don’t know how to lay it on thicker than what I just did.

Atheists are not immoral.  They are amoral.


Immoral means acting contrary to established morality.  It is a question of ethics, not ontology or epistemology.

Amoral means lacking morals.  It is a question either of ontology or epistemology, not ethics.

Morality represents the essence of good behavior.  Ethics represent the execution of good behavior — in other words, the pudding that the proof is in.

In Plato’s dialogues, Socrates asks the good priest Euthyphro what piety is.  Euthyphro comes up with several examples, which Socrates says were good but that only covers pious acts.  Socrates wants to know what piety is.

By giving him extensive examples, Euthyphro wasn’t actually answering Socrates’ question.

The above graphic does the same thing — it only shows that atheists behave more ethically than religious people.  But why do they do that?

They can’t tell you — there is no ground for morality given atheistic naturalism.  That’s where the difficulty starts.  Ethics can change; sometimes dramatically.

It was once legal to bet on (or against) your own team in professional sports.  Professional sports also allowed the use of steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs without batting an eyelash.  Now, both practices are deemed cheating in most professional sports.

What we need is something to ground our ethics in; something immutable that we can return to to see what goodness looks like.  That way, when we find something new, we can create a code of ethics for it patterned after that which gave us the example of good ethics in the first place.

If morality is an immovable anchor and ethics are a boat on the rough, unforgiving seas of our culture, the boat is free to move about within the radius of the anchor.  It might go adrift, it might even do something unacceptable, but it will remain in the range of the anchor.  Conversely, without the anchor, the ship is free to be tossed around the sea of possibilities, moving unflinchingly into uncharted, dangerous waters with nothing to bring it back to safety.

The nature of God is that immutable ground of ethical behavior for the theist.  The atheist has none.  We are the boat that will return to safe waters, they are the one that will be tossed out to sea without a guide.

I have no problem with considering atheists ethical; the above examples show they are.  However, they have no ultimate ground for the morality that informs their ethics and that means they will go seriously adrift.

About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on November 4, 2012, in Apologetics, Morality, Religion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I especially like the one about prisoners. It may be that .2% are atheists, but the rest are functional atheists – those who live as though God doesn’t exist. I’ve worked as a counsellor in the federal prison system for 10 years and not once did I meet a man who thought he was a bad person. When admitted to prison they are told to check off boxes and if they were raised in a family that went to Church at Christmas and Easter they check off Christian. Except for atheists, in general if people haven’t killed anyone, they think they’re Christians.

    It’s a farce.

    Anyhow, good post. You’re right that while atheist can be good people, maybe even better than any given Christian, they don’t not have, do not want, nor do they believe in the existence of objective moral values, duties and obligations. They make up their moral code as they go along. It changes with the ebb and flow of society’s taste for the day.

    God Bless
    See you There!

  2. I fundamentally disagree with your assertion that the Christian religion is “immutable ground of ethical behaviour”. In fact, your latest post about how your desire to discriminate against gay people is not discrimination because you are holding to an unrealistic, discriminatory definition of marriage shows that Christians cannot be moral. How can you be if you have no qualms about hurting others with your discrimination?

    • I never asserted that the Christian religion is the immutable ground of ethical behavior. What I stated AND BACKED UP WITH AN ARGUMENT YOU IGNORE is:

      The nature of God is that immutable ground of ethical behavior for the theist. The atheist has none. We are the boat that will return to safe waters, they are the one that will be tossed out to sea without a guide. (emphasis added)

      In that entire post, I never mentioned the Christian religion once. You need to read more carefully.

  3. As a dogmatic Christian in the past I had no problem condemning people who didn’t do or act certain ways as a disobedient and rebellious Christian, or worse, an infidel! I had no problem pushing my beliefs on people when they respected my beliefs but had their own. I had no problem with discriminating people out of my group due to their lifestyle or beliefs. Now as an Atheist I can have friends of every religion, lifestyle and creed. Atheists ethics are like science, the more we learn, the more we are accountable for. I love diversity, and differences, as I am curious about the world around me, but in the past differences scared me. (Some still do there is no question, but now I am way more accepting of the harmless.)

    At one time (due to the unmovable beliefs of religious people) they believed we should not have technology like cars, music, the Bible in our homes, and many good things, they also condemned herbs as witchcraft, and red haired people, left handed ones and midwives as the witches. This is the “immutable ground of ethical behavior for the theist”? No, it is unteachable, unchangable dogma, closed to enlightenment and growth.

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