Are Atheists Better Suited for Social Justice than Christians?

Are Atheists Better Suited for Social Justice than Christians? December 27, 2018

I suppose that it is inevitable to think about free will over the Christmas season – given that it is often preceded by a period of time where we ask children if they’ve been good or bad. Both of these concepts are, of course, relative to the child and the family: Christian, atheist, or otherwise. And this tends to get all caught up in the gift-giving as well. We generally present these as a sort of societal obligation rather than as a reward for moral righteousness (best not to dig too deep into that). But that said, we, as Christians, tend to place a lot of trust in free will. And a lot of trust that our gamble to choose a path of virtue will find its end in redemption and an eternal life of bliss with God. Which, while nice and all, gets us into some rather sticky conundrums that we don’t often care to think too much about.

Moral Traps

Such as the nagging feeling that I sometimes have that we as Christians are hindered in our ability to make the world a better place because of some of our beliefs. Or rather, the conditioning we have given ourselves because of our beliefs. Such as our belief that the souls of the innocent go straight to heaven. This means that in the wake of tragedies such as the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the death of thousands of migrant children in the waters of the Mediterranean, and the starving plight of refugees in Latin and Central America, Christians can shake their heads, offer some prayers, and make some Facebook comment about how “Isn’t it terrible, but at least they’re with Jesus now.” As opposed to doing something in the here and now.

Or the idea that God will mete out the final judgment for all, so people receiving judgment in this life is less important (unless we disagree with them politically, of course, and then Christian charity disappears). Bottom line, if the foundation of our belief is rooted in the idea that Christ died to redeem us and to open the doors to paradise – thereby making that paradise our final goal for life – then perhaps that makes us less inclined to actually make this world a better place. We are basically programmed to care less about the social justice of the whole as long as we are hitting our marks in our own personal life.

Do Atheists Do Social Justice Better?

Atheists or agnostics, on the other hand, have but this one world to work with. One try is all you get, so to speak. Of course, this could make some turn towards hedonism or fatalism. Just as some in Christianity turn towards an overzealous attempt to convert everyone “before it’s too late” in order to deal with the fairly heavy concept of mortality that tends to loom over some people more than others.

But atheists can break free of the trap that Christians all too often fall into. They can focus their work here on earth to try to bring some good into the world. Rather than wring their hands over the evil in the world, they have more motivation to just do something about it. In other words, atheists might be better suited for social justice work than the very people whose religion espouses its values. Which would be incredibly ironic.

So. Are atheists better at social justice than Christians? Hard to tell (blatant cop-out, I know, but the data doesn’t really exist). But they would seem to have a leg up on us as regards motivation. Some might find this disturbing or even upsetting to think about. I choose to look at it as an intellectual exercise, to drive me out of my complacency to work to make this world a better place.

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About the Author: Angry Staff Officer is an Army engineer officer who is adrift in a sea of doctrine and staff operations and uses writing as a means to retain his sanity. He writes at The Angry Staff Officer. He also collaborates on a podcast with Adin Dobkin entitled War Stories, which examines key moments in the history of warfare. 

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  • andrewlohr

    God created the heavens and the earth…The Word became flesh and lived among us…Note “flesh” and “earth.” Christians should care about created things, notably flesh and blood. The Bible reads largely about created things and God’s interest in them. God’s glory, of which we fall short, gives us something to be striving for (those who expect to see Jesus are purifying themselves as He is pure), and keeps created things in perspective. Love God (who cares about creation); love your neighbors (part of creation); Bible has lots of instructions and lots of stories with good and bad and mixed examples. Atheists are welcome to borrow as much Christian wisdom as appeals to them; I tend to think Ayn Rand (freedom and human dignity) borrowed better than Karl Marx, but even Marx had touches of humor (‘Paris is worth a mass’) and humility (if you don’t like this sonnet, throw it away!). Both Christians and atheists have mixed track records (Stalin, certain popes), but on the whole Christendom is more livable than secular-dom, and our Hero is perfect.

  • Brian Westley

    There is a famous story told in Chassidic literature that addresses this very question. The Master teaches the student that God created everything in the world to be appreciated, since everything is here to teach us a lesson.

    One clever student asks “What lesson can we learn from atheists? Why did God create them?”

    The Master responds “God created atheists to teach us the most important lesson of them all — the lesson of true compassion. You see, when an atheist performs and act of charity, visits someone who is sick, helps someone in need, and cares for the world, he is not doing so because of some religious teaching. He does not believe that god commanded him to perform this act. In fact, he does not believe in God at all, so his acts are based on an inner sense of morality. And look at the kindness he can bestow upon others simply because he feels it to be right.”

    “This means,” the Master continued “that when someone reaches out to you for help, you should never say ‘I pray that God will help you.’ Instead for the moment, you should become an atheist, imagine that there is no God who can help, and say ‘I will help you.’”

    Tales of Hasidim Vol. 2 by Martin Buber

  • stevendeedon

    Sorry to say, the author is ill-informed. See the research referenced in chapter 13 of Putnam and Campbell’s “American Grace,” which suggests that frequent churchgoers are far, far more prosocial than the most secular neighbors. Journal research I don’t have at hand suggested that nonbelievers may have stronger empathic emotion, but that didn’t lead to more helpful behavior. This aligns with the research behind Paul Bloom’s “Against Empathy.”

  • In the short term yes, in the long term no. But I have never found a social justice warrior with a viewpoint much beyond next month, let alone eternally.

    That is why the atheist may be very generous personally, but it takes the Roman Catholic Church to found universities and hospitals.

  • Brian Westley

    And to cover up horrible crimes for decades.

  • Notice once again, it is the SJWs committing the horrid crimes. It takes a liberal to ignore a vow of celibacy.

  • Brian Westley

    Notice that you’re just spouting lies.

  • Cardinal McCarrick, the abuser, was a sexually promiscuous liberal. Same with every other abuser, catholic or not. These men do are not sexual conservatives. Oh sure, they hide their abusive nature behind false concepts of consent, but they are rapists and predators, just like all sexually promiscuous people are.

  • Brian Westley

    Same with every other abuser,

    No, you’re just asserting a “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

    Plus, you are ignoring all the other Catholic officials who covered up the abuse and helped perpetuate it instead of reporting it to the police — to defend the RCC from “scandal”.

    but they are rapists and predators, just like all sexually promiscuous people are

    No, rapists and predators tend to be hateful people like yourself.

  • It’s more of a True Scotsman fallacy- the liberal Cardinal Dolan of New York was just accused of covering up and helping perpetuate the abuse. Whenever you see a Cardinal or an Archbishop promoting Social Justice, it’s because they’re covering up for sexually promiscuous rapists.

    Stop gaslighting people about sexual abuse, Brian. We don’t believe in your lies about extra-marital sex being anything other than rape anymore. Rape causes atheism.

  • Brian Westley

    It’s more of a True Scotsman fallacy

    No, you can’t just assert that “Whenever you see a Cardinal or an Archbishop promoting Social Justice, it’s because they’re covering up for sexually promiscuous rapists.”

    Stop gaslighting people about sexual abuse, Brian.


    You’re the one making up lies out of whole cloth, not me.

    We don’t believe in your lies about extra-marital sex being anything other than rape anymore.

    What are you babbling about now? I haven’t written anything resembling that.

    Rape causes atheism.

    Catholicism causes idiocy.

  • The only reason to be atheist is to stop being moral. And the only reason you pretend to rhink differently is to forsake convention and have sex with as many people as possible, whether they consent or not.

  • Brian Westley

    The only reason to be atheist is to stop being moral.

    Just keep showing how ignorant you are.

    And the only reason you pretend to rhink differently is to forsake convention and have sex with as many people as possible, whether they consent or not.

    And just keep lying. Who’s the father of all lies again?

  • If not to disobey God’s laws, with well over 6000 years of proof that being moral works and being immoral is always destructive, there is no other reason to be atheist.

    And do not give me that dishonest “I have never seen such evidence” lie, that is just fake nihilism.

    I have zero reason to trust anything you say, and nobody else should believe it either.

  • Annilouise

    You are forgetting some notorious conservatives such as Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, and several other members of that organization that have left the priesthood because of sexual scandal, or Robert Hanssen, the member of Opus Dei who is in jail for treason, but also exhibited some bizarre sexual perversions, or Milo Yiannopoulos, formerly of Brietbart news, who seems to combine conservative ideology with personal moral decadence. There are many more. Not all sinners are liberal.

  • Marcial was a liberal. He broke his vow of celibacy. Milo is a liberal homosexual. I am not familiar with the other one. But you seem to be confusing fiscal libertarians with conservatives. I reject their worship of usury, as much as I reject their worship of orgasms.

  • Brian Westley

    Everyone else can easily see you’re lying; either you know you’re lying, or you are seriously delusional.

  • The lie is in postmodernism itself. But of course, you are not intelligent enough to be a theist, so how would you know?

  • Brian Westley

    No, you’re the liar. You make up lies about people like me (“the only reason you pretend to rhink differently is to forsake convention and have sex with as many people as possible, whether they consent or not”), because you have no actual morals, you only have your invisible, psychotic “friend”.

  • The problem is you are simply not honest about your own motives, not skeptical enough about yourself. There is no lie, this is why people like you spread atheism, to groom new victims. I am not falling for your grooming, and am thus dangerous to your othopraxy.

  • Brian Westley

    The problem is you are simply not honest about your own motives

    No, the problem is that you lied about me, and you’re lying now. That’s probably why you like belonging to a child-raping organization like the RCC.

  • Given what we now know about the spread of atheism in th he clergy and in the sexual revolution, your version of events is no longer credible. There are plenty of atheists in the Roman Catholic Clergy, and they are there to undermine the sexual teaching of the Church.

  • Brian Westley

    Hey, it’s the No True Scotsman lie yet again. You just can’t help lying for typing.

  • No, it is the true scottsman truism: somebody who refuses the faith does not act in the faith.

    Just like you.

  • Brian Westley

    Keep lying, just like your father wants.

  • Exactly what is the lie in pointing out that somebody who cannot keep a vow is unfaithful?

  • Brian Westley

    I see you’re just as dishonest in asking questions.
    “Just like you” was your lie. It seems you think it’s OK to lie, constantly.

  • No lie at all. Just seeing through your false “good without God” narrative. It is very clear to me that when clergy lose God, they lose morality- and your so-called subjective morality is no better. There are no good human beings- at all. Never were, never could be. We all fool ourselves.

  • Brian Westley

    Just seeing through your false “good without God” narrative.

    No, you’re just lying. Again.

  • I have zero reason to trust Brian Waverly, even if that is your real name, so why shpuld anybody else?

  • Brian Westley

    If only you belonged to a religion that said lying was immoral.

  • Also Pell, conservative hero. Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who campaigned against gay marriage and then admitted he had a boyfriend. Fr. Tony Anatrella, who promised to cure homosexuality but sexually harassed his counseling clients. Even traditionalist hero, Burke, offered a child rapist priest the chance to flee the country instead of calling the police.

    Of course Ted here will deny all of these with one of two defenses: he was by definition a liberal despite anything he said, because he was unchaste and unchastity is a liberal invention; or else he is innocent because he says conservative things and I happen to believe him, and conservatives by definition can’t abuse.

    He also thinks married men who don’t use birth control by definition can’t rape their wives, so. Probably best to block tbh.

  • Atheism celebrates lying. This is why I cannot believe anything you say.

  • Brian Westley

    Another fallacy of hasty generalization. I know you’re a liar because you’ve directly lied about me, and you can’t backpedal to change that. Do you suck Jesus’ cock with that lying mouth?

  • And that ia why I know not to trust you on anything, because you use the language of the demonic. In a more civilized age, you would be burned at the stake.

  • Brian Westley

    And that ia why I know not to trust you on anything, because you use the language of the demonic.

    No, satan is the father of lies, and you have been writing lies.

    In a more civilized age, you would be burned at the stake.


    Wow, you are pathetically powerless. That’s hilarious.

  • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

    Thanks. I got this far and finally just blocked that psychopathic idiot. There’s no other way to deal with people who will just continue arguing in bad faith.

  • nicole

    Just speaking from experience yes atheists are better at social justice. At least around atheists you don’t have to justify yourself for why you are helping refugees. The only social justice work some catholics seem to accept is “pro-life” stuff. And even that usually means just complaining how evil society is and then calling poor women murderers.

  • Grimlock

    This is the kind of issues that makes me wish I’d gone into psychology.

    While I’m not entirely sure about this, my impression is that a lot of studies on us non-religious suffer from methodological flaws, such confounding factors not being sufficiently accounted for, or the idea of religiosity not being sufficiently nuanced. Basically, my impression is that there are some differences (e.g. religious are more inclined towards deontological ethics) , some similarities (particularly between liberal religious and nonreligious), some due to benefits of group belonging, and a lot still to learn.

    I’ve gotten started on “The Nonreligious: Understanding Secular People and Societies” by Zuckerman et al., and I read through the conclusion of the chapter on mority and ethics just now. Really looking forward to reading that entire chapter.

    The emphatic part is fascinating. My understanding is that autism is negatively correlated with religiosity, and that autism impacts sympathy, but not empathy. The empathy thing is something I would’ve guessed to be more of a liberal vs conservative issue. Do you happen to know of any interesting articles on the subject?

    As for Paul Bloom, how’d you find his book? It’s been on my list for a while.

  • Neko

    Maciel was a liberal? Who knew.

  • Neko

    Cardinal Dolan is a liberal? You’re on drugs.