Do As We Say, Not As We Do

Here’s a fascinating, albeit anecdotal, conversation between an atheist and his two co-workers (who also happen to be identical twins):

Twin #1: “So, [my name], you think about what we said on Tuesday?”
Me: “Not really.”
Twin #1: “Come on, man. This is important stuff.”
Twin #2: “Yeah. You wanna go to [hell]?”
Me: “Nope.”
Twin #1: “I mean, I just don’t get you.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Twin #1: “If you don’t believe in God, where do you get your morals from?”
Me: “Uh…”
Twin #2: “Yeah. The only way to know right from wrong is with God.”
Me: “I don’t think so.”
Twin #1: “Well, it’s still true, dude. It doesn’t matter what you think.”
Twin #2: “Right. You should… hang on.”

You’re going to want to read how this plays out

(Thanks to Lauren for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • indorri

    I’m becoming more and more convinced that people who believe in hell, or at least who have given it serious thought and still believe in it, are utter moral wretches who would actually rape, steal and kill if convinced there are no gods.

  • Sven2547

    I wouldn’t go that far. That said, the stupid argument that God is the only reason not to rape and murder is easily turned on its head.

    “So the only thing stopping you from raping and murdering is your religion? That doesn’t make you a good person, that makes you a sociopath on a leash.”

  • Lori F

    My come-back? Don’t worry. I’ll just find jesus before as i’m dying. no problem.

  • indorri

    While it’s a stupid argument, I don’t think that’s as easily turned on its head as you think. People who make it believe objective morality exists. They just don’t think it’s possible to exist without gods or some other metaphysical/supernatural explanation. That’s a reification failure which results from poor epistemology.

  • wmdkitty

    It doesn’t exactly stop them from raping, stealing, lying and killing.

    Just look at the prison population….

  • wmdkitty


  • Reginald Selkirk

    Doesn’t matter. You’ll be baptised Mormon after you die, just like the rest of us.

  • Rain

    I would ask them how much they value my soul and then ask them how much money they will give me to remain listening to their undoubtedly very persuasive argument.

  • tinker

    My Mother in law broke our truce yesterday and wanted to discuss religion. I pointed out to her that her morals come from her and not the bible. I think that I am the first outed atheist that she has ever met and can’t reconcile that I am a more ethical person than some of the people in her church. She said that she would think about that and all I could say was; that’s all I ask.

  • LesterBallard

    “Sociopath on a leash”. I’m stealing that.

  • LesterBallard

    If this was a real situation, couldn’t the atheist do something about it? Like sue the shit out of someone? Sounds like harassment to me.

  • allein

    I read this and a couple of its sister sites now and then; I sometimes wonder how true some of the stories are. That said, if this is true, I would at the least be reporting these two to the boss, especially if they make a habit of preaching. Also, I would be telling them to STFU and walking away any time they started.

  • Frank Mitchell

    Warning … short rant ahead …

    After presuppositional apologetics, the notion that human nature is inherently depraved is one of the most absurd and ignorant arguments of Christianity (and other religions, to be fair). Every base impulse is our fault, so the theory goes, but every noble action is God’s doing. Thus believers think that believing in God makes them good, frequently despite ample evidence to the contrary, and people who do “wrong” (however that’s defined) need more religion … even if they profess the same faith. This system spawns mainly sociopaths convinced that God is on their side and self-loathing wretches terrified of their own passing thoughts.

    Current research suggests that human psychology is a mixture of altruistic motivations (maybe in support of selfish genes) and self-centered survival mechanisms. Understanding how to encourage the former and mitigate the latter might actually improve everyone’s quality of life. Unfortunately too many people are still mired in medieval notions of sin and grace. They would drag the rest of us back to an era which largely forgot Greek ethical philosophy, where the mass of humanity feared censure lest they lose the Church’s “redemption”.

  • m6wg4bxw

    The twins in the story are concerned with the idea that acts like lying are wrong, and that the knowledge of their wrongness comes from God. They don’t instruct against committing the acts. Until they do, there is no hypocrisy.

  • Mick

    My response to people like the twins: In Malachi 2:3 God says that if you don’t give glory to his name he will rub shit on your face, and in Matthew 18:6 his son says that unbelievers should be weighted down and drowned in the ocean — so I don’t want anything to do with that family. I’m surprised you do.

  • Tanner B James

    A friend of mine told me a story about a shoplifter at the camera shop she works at. A woman, who supposedly shops there frequently, was caught by an employee stealing camera equipment. When confronted she exclaimed, “I am a good christian and good christians don’t steal.” The manager then asked her to empty the bag she was carrying to which she replied, “Trust me there is nothing in my bag because a good christian’s tell the truth.” When the manager threatened to call 911 she emptied her bag on the counter and to everyones shock (sarcasm) the stolen items fell out. According to my friend she then said, “An employee must have put the items in the bag when I set it down.” and continued with, “This store and its employees are working for the devil and I am going to tell everyone at my church not to shop here!” She apparently then brushed her blond bob hair back and walked out of the store in a huff. At the same moment the police showed up and stopped her from getting into her Mercedes Benz. The store is located in an affluent neighborhood of Tacoma.

    What’s the moral of this story? Christian morality exist only when it benefits their image or credibility otherwise they are just as evil and corrupted as everyone, but us Atheists. /sarcasm

  • MariaO

    Whenever this come up, refer to these two maps:
    Religiousity in the world

    Vioence measured by homicide in the world

    Then ask why some of the most non-religious countries are also the safest…

  • Drakk

    “Thou shalt not” sounds fairly unambiguous to me…

  • SeekerLancer

    When hell is brought up I always like to tell them that for me it’s sort of like how they completely ignore all of the punishments from other religions plus one more.

  • randomfactor

    Christianistically speaking, couldn’t you get your morals from Satan rather than God? You know, the proverbial Bad Example?

  • randomfactor

    I’ve decided that there are basically two kinds of Christians in the world: Those who believe in a literal hell, and the “good” Christians.

  • randomfactor

    If her fellow church members stop shopping there, the theft problem would probably go down.

  • C Peterson

    I mentor middle school kids, so I see a lot of different types of behavior. One consistently reliable way of categorizing “good” kids involves distinguishing those who are “good” because they worry about getting caught or getting in trouble, and those who are “good” because that’s simply the way they think.

    Both groups are “good” most of the time, but I know which ones I think are most at risk as they become adults. And most religion just fosters that sort of “morality” that depends on the fear of punishment.

  • dcl3500

    Obviously, stereo-typically following my personal definition of “good” christians, you know the folks you can’t trust as far as you can throw them.

  • JA

    Saw this a few days ago. I’ve had a few coworkers like them.

  • phantomreader42

    And a flimsy leash at that…

  • phantomreader42

    No, people who believe in hell are sniveling cowards, licking the boots of a corrupt tyrant to save their own worthless hide.
    The sociopaths are the ones who claim that their fear of the aforementioned imaginary tyrant is the only reason they aren’t CURRENTLY raping, killing, and eating every person they see. And if the voices in their heads tell them it’s time to slaughter the infidels and bathe in their blood, they’d do it gleefully, without a moment’s remorse or hesitation.
    When people openly and proudly admit to being sociopaths on flimsy leashes, I tell them what they just admitted. They usually deny it, which means either their argument for their imaginary god is built on a lie, or they are lying now and are every bit as depraved as they initially claimed to be. Either way, they have proven that they are neither trustworthy nor a reliable source on the subject of morality.

  • meekinheritance

    Species evolve to procreate themselves. As such, we have an inherent bias to support each other. And while philosophers and scientists can dig deeper into reasons for specific behaviors, both normal and aberrant, I don’t think there’s a need to go beyond that for motivation.

  • m6wg4bxw

    But the twins didn’t say that.

  • Baby_Raptor

    But they believe, so they’re not in any danger of becoming the target. And since when have the good majority of Christians shown any concern over non-believers except as a way to win soul points?

  • Randay

    For more information about modifying behavior, I suggest you read B.F. Skinner. For a not too technical explanation see “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” and “About Behaviorism”.

    There are many videos on YT with his lectures and interviews.

  • Frank Mitchell

    Skinner is hardly the be-all and end-all of behavior modification (although he originated behaviorism). Cognitive psychology addresses how intelligent beings can modify their own behavior, and developmental psychology traces how modes of behavior (good and bad) emerge in children. I’m probably missing some relevant research directions.

  • Randay

    First of all Skinner himself would not say that he originated behaviorism. He was just the most effective exponent. I gave you several research directions. Cognitive or developmental psychology as far as I know have not done experiments to the level that Skinner did. “Good and bad” are value judgements. What Skinner studied is how behavior is determined and how you could modify it.