Proof Atheists Have Morals

Proof Atheists Have Morals August 29, 2014


Gavin Rumney shared the above, and it made me chuckle. Given that at least most atheists don’t take advantage of the gullibility that characterizes at least some Christians (and clearly some people who at least claim to be Christians do take advantage of that gullibility for their own profit), does this prove clearly and unambiguously that the line between the moral and the immoral does not follow the border between atheists and religious believers?

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  • Sean Garrigan

    One of the interesting features of the reformed tradition is that it’s produced a few notable apologists who grounded moral values and duties in _belief_ in God, rather than in God Himself.

    So, someone like the late Cornelius Van Til or the late Greg Bahnsen would have probably turned it around and said: It’s not that atheists can’t be moral; it’s that there can’t be atheists. Everyone who is able to reason at all has, by virtue of having done so, thereby demonstrated faith in God, which they then attempt to deny.

    Whether true or not, that form of argument has certainly made for some interesting debates!

  • T. Webb

    Dr. McGrath, I’m confused… who says atheists don’t have any morals? Can you give an example of someone who makes this argument? When I’ve read debates, the question is the *basis* for morality. For believers, their basis may be their interpretation of Hebrew scriptures, Greek scriptures, Hindu scriptures, Arabic scriptures, etc., various combinations of those and or others, from God/god/gods/Om/whatever. For atheists, there is no ‘god/gods/supernatural’ etc., so there is no ultimate right or wrong. Please explain. Thanks.

    • Well, from one perspective, religious believers are simply deriving morals from other human beings who wrote texts before them, plus their own reason and culture, whether they admit it or not.

      But from another perspective, they are pushing the issue back to where God’s morals come from and what if anything makes them “good” which doesn’t help, since the problem isn’t solved just by defining “good” as “what God deems moral,” because that is no different in practice than defining “what I deem moral” as good.

      Here’s an example of someone who doesn’t seem to be stopping at “atheists have no basis for morality”:

      • People don’t get their morals from religion — this is a myth. Humans have presettings which then react to their environment and their upbringing (mimicking).

        Religious folks use “morals” as one of their biggest playing cards, but they are deluded on this issue. Hell, the vast majority of believers don’t even know their scriptures.

        The reason religion-free folks can be nice people is if they have a good upbringing and good environment. Nasty religious people can happen if they have a bad upbringing or bad environment.

        Sure, culture plays a role in the teachings too, but culture is far bigger than religion.

        • Sean Garrigan

          Aren’t you the same person who once conceded that there ultimately are no such things as moral values and duties that are valid and binding regardless whether anyone chooses to believe in them or not? I may be confusing you with someone else, but I thought that you once admitted that murder isn’t objectively wrong, but only wrong from the standpoint of cultural conditioning.

          If moral values and duties aren’t objectively real, then when someone commits murder he’s ultimately doing nothing more serious than behaving improperly from a cultural/social perspective. Murder is then in the same category as farting on a public elevator, or constantly picking your nose in public.

          • Hey Sean, I won’t use up a thread space to bring up all the classic, hackneyed anti-realism vs realism positions on ethics. Yet alone discuss law, morality, genetics and all that good stuff. But you are right, our position are very different, but you wrongly described and misunderstand my position in classic, generic ways.

            So instead of reply to those, I will let you read on your own — or perhaps you have read on this but for rhetoric sake intentionally chosen the strawman argument — either way, discussion will be unproductive here.

          • Sean Garrigan

            That’s fine. I’d try to find the thread to remind you what you said, but I think it’s on the old blog, and for whatever reason all the replies were deleted when those blog posts were moved here.

          • No need to look it up, mate. Ethical realism vs. anti-realism is a classic metaphysical argument. There are good arguments on both sides, even if I prefer one to another. It is this statement that you made, that proves that dialogue will not be fruitful for the reasons I mentioned (ignorance or argumentative):
            “Murder is then in the same category as farting on a public elevator, or constantly picking your nose in public.”

          • Sean Garrigan

            Ah, well I was paraphrasing William Lane Craig there, and quite a few respected atheists have felt that conversations with him were worthwhile. You disagree, which is your right.

          • yeah, sounded like Craig
            Since I am an atheist worth disrespecting, it is no wonder I quickly recognized it as balderdash.

            Suggestions: write for yourself, think for yourself, try to really understand the other and put their position forward the best you can to show you understand.

            Oh yes, and avoid obvious rhetoric ploys even when your hero uses them.

          • Sean Garrigan

            Good advice, thanks.

          • Oh, and if you want to read a bit more of my view on Morality, you can read my post “Backyard Morality“.

            Don’t come to discuss it here, you may cont. on my blog on that issue if you wish.

  • My goodness: a two sentence post and the second sentence was huge. I could not untangle it. I need to go back to school.