Atheists often conflate the notion that atheism is amoral (because it provides no justification for objective morality) with the accusation that atheists are immoral. In this exchange Dr Don Batten responds to an atheist who falls for this confusion at first, but then attempts to offer an atheistic ground for objective morality.

Lee H. from the United Kingdom writes:

Without the existence of a god, there are plenty of things that would still matter, to a person and to a society. Arguably, that could indeed be the situation that we’re in right now. Religious faith and purposeful values are not mutually exclusive.

If people somehow knew that there really was no such thing as a god, then I expect there would still be plenty of things that matter, like family and friends, community, honesty, etc., just as there are in communities without religion today.

With or without the existence of a god, people can and do still make up their own rules. I agree that atheism seems unlikely to be the direct source of anyone’s civilized behaviour. However, there are plenty of other sources of civilized behaviour that have nothing to do with imaginary beings. Arguably, theism might be the direct source for many people’s bad behaviour.

The objective moral standards that are common to all people are naturally common to all atheists too.  Atheists tend to value most of the same things that theists value. Christianity does not have a monopoly on ethical judgments and good behaviour. It never has and probably never will.

Atheists could potentially be more morally virtuous than Christians, or followers of any religion, because their behaviour is not influenced by such ridiculous ideas as “it’s written down, so do it” or “the silent invisible thing said do it, so do it” or “everyone else here is doing it, so do it”.

Don Batten responds:….

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