Can atheists be moral?

Can atheists be moral? If so, how can we (or them) know?

One of the more misunderstood debates between believers and atheists is whether or not an atheist can have a morality. Some incorrectly understand believers to think that atheists are immoral or live lives that are sinful by our account. But this is not what is meant by wondering whether an atheist can have a morality. Let us consider the following:

1. It will be stipulated that many atheists and agnostics can and do live morally upright lives. For example, many among them get married, stay married, do not beat their wives, pay taxes, and may volunteer at soup kitchens and give to charities. Surely there is manifested in many atheists a natural virtue. It will also be stipulated that some who call themselves believers in God do not always live morally upright lives. And in both categories there is everything in between.

**2. So the question about whether atheists can have a morality does not center around whether some or any of them can live good lives. **Rather, the question centers around the basis of their assessment of what is moral, good, upright, just, etc. On what basis do they ascribe such judgments to certain acts? On what basis do they ascribe other assessments such as “wrong,” “unjust,” “bad,” and so forth?

Here are some questions I would like to pose to some of our disbelievers:

  1. On what do you base your notions of right or wrong?
  2. How are your notions better than mine or your neighbor’s?
  3. Are not the very words “morality,” “right,” and “wrong” judgments? If so, what is the standard you use to make these judgments?
  4. If I am just a series of chemical reactions, doing and saying what matter randomly “causes” in me, by what norm do you hold me responsible for anything I do or say?
  5. And if I am not responsible for what I do, why are you angry with me when I do things you don’t like?
  6. Whence your anger? And why don’t you like it? Is it not some sense in you that justice or what is right is being violated?
  7. But where do these notions come from and why are your notions better than mine?
  8. Again, if I may: on what do you base you notions of right and wrong?
  9. Can you, an atheist, be moral? How? Says who? Where are your norms to be found if there be no God, no natural law, and if creation is without a designer and is simply a mindless succession of random mutations?

It has always tickled me that atheists can get so up tight about a cross display, public prayer, etc, when the God they so hate - “doesn’t exist”! :grin:

The old bard had it right ---- “Much ado about nothing” :machinegu


The question of “what is the basis of morality if there is no Moral Law Giver” is one that Dr. Ravi Zacharias challenges people with.

Most morality can be discerned simply by referring to the Golden Rule. One doesn’t need to be religious to appreciate the moral force of the Golden Rule.

Mildred Bangs Wynkoop suggests that part of our moral structure (or whatever it can be called) is due to our being created in the image of God. So some of these atheists behave in a moral manner in some instances because they are created in the image of the God they don’t believe exists.

I don’t know the exact quote, and I’m not sure where to find it, except that it is her book, “A Theology of Love.”

1 Like

I believe that morals are a natural phenomena. Whether or not they come from a divine beings though is beyond my understanding. I had a question proposed to me recently that kind of ties in the question that CT is asking. Can God(s) be moral? I mean can we apply the concept of human morality to a divine being?

Morality is based on God - therefore, He can only be moral. God cannot do anything that is contrary to His own nature, and He is the source of all morality.

1 Like

That statement would imply that God himself is then limited by his nature of being the ultimate moral authority. If God is the end all on morals then he has the ability to be both morally good or bad. Do you see what I am getting at? If God is the ultimate moral authority then he has chosen to be good and wants all of creation to follow that path. This does not that mean that God cannot be morally evil. This is why I do not believe that we can apply the concept of morality to divine beings. I would argue that they are abouve morality and that concepts such as good and evil cannot be applied to them.

No, because “bad” is just a perversion of “good.”

What is “bad” from a HUMAN perspective, may not be “bad” from God’s. What everyone here is doing is presuming to “think like God” and that’s simply not possible.

1 Like

That’s very true - we tend to “make God in our own image”, when we have not the power to truly fathom what He is like.

1 Like

I will give you that but my statement abouve still stands.

No one is trying to “think like God”. The question is whether or not the concept of morality can be applied to a God(s). My answer is no as I believe that any such being would be abouve such a concept even if ***our ***concept of morality is derived from them.

  1. Univerally Preferable Behavior a Proof for Rational Ethics and Argumentation Ethics both of which support the Non Aggression Priniciple as a conconclusion.
  2. My beliefs are based in reason, logic, that adheres to objective reality.
  3. See 1.
  4. I believe in free will and think determinism is a contradiction. I do not follow Sam Harris or the other Atheists.
  5. I believe you are responsible for what you do.
  6. Anger is a protection from evil.
  7. Reason and logic, they are objective.
  8. See 1.
  9. An atheist can be moral. Who says? No one does in a authoritative way. Who says that 2+2=4 is correct? Humans who can determine what is truth. This question is just a more complex concept and has taken humans a while to figure it out.

Not sure what your point is.

CT, imo you nailed it.

Great opening post. Good questions raised. Your red ink goes right to the heart
and soul of this issue.

Your word was “basis”. Upon what “basis” do they rest their morality?

My answer is when their “basis” is put in the pot and boiled long enough,
their “basis” reduces down to the logic-equivalent of this:

I the Atheist issue a proclamation that pigs can fly because I desperately need to believe
that pigs can fly in order to survive psychologically and intellectually. That means in order
to survive I must believe that I have reasoned-based objective morals even though on my
views both me and my moral code are the products of blind random impersonal chance and
a biological accidents of nature.

Moreover, on my atheism both me, my brain, my will, my emotions, and my moral code are
the accidental products of matter + time + chance.

Also on my atheism I have the same identical ultimate destiny as a cockroach:

[SIZE=5]oblivion … [/SIZE]

… Nonetheless , because I know that I cannot survive either emotionally or mentally if I face
the logically compelling conclusions and ramifications of believing that I am ultimately of
no more worth and value than a cockroach …

… I therefore issue a proclamation logically equivalent to “pigs can fly” and I also issue a
grand proclamation saying that I hold to a reasoned-based *objective moral code even though
both me and my moral code were the accidental produce of matter + time + chance.

*Objective means that there is actually a moral code in the universe that would exist
even if man had never been created. Philosophically, if what I just said is not true, then
all morality is nothing more than the subjective opinions of individual human beings,
in other words, it would be no more than mere human opinion that it is immoral to
murder for money-gain.

Put another way, an “objective morality” is the certain knowledge that (say) Hitler was
an immoral man that performed immoral acts regardless of what human majority opinions
[majority vote] turned out to be.

Let us, for argument’s sake, say that:

Hitler had won WW II, and had gone on to conquer the entire world, and moreover
had convinced every last single human being on earth that his methods of mass
murder were totally morally justified because of the end-results-greater-good that
he had accomplished for humanity, so that the entire earth was enjoying untold
peace and prosperity under his reign, and it came to pass that 100% of humanity
praised him as a just and good man!

Objective morality says that Hitler, under all those conditions, would still have been
an immoral murderer. Why is that true? Because morality exists apart from the
subjective opinions [and majority votes] of human beings. And in order to have
an objective morality, one MUST locate his moral code in God. Otherwise, his
moral code carries no more weight than his own personal subjective opinions
that Hitler was immoral, and don’t forget that even those subjective opinions of his,
were the product of matter + time + chance, and don’t forget that he himself [the
atheist] is a product of the chance process of random mutation followed by accidental
biological natural selection.

  • back to the cockroach: *

Long story short: The atheist creature who admits he has the identical same ultimate
destiny and ultimate worth and value as does a cockroach, nevertheless claims that
he holds to an objective morality that is not merely and only his own personal subjective
opinions. … lol … Its all totally absurd!

The truth is the atheist’s entire and whole intellectual
self and being reduces to the intellectual level where
he issues his proclamation that "pigs can fly"
because that’s what he desperately needs to
believe in order to survive intellectually and

Its pure undiluted “word magic.” In short: Pure nonsense.

Or you could correctly sum up the intellectual level
of an atheist with this picture:

same pic

Or you can correctly sum up the atheist’s intellectual position with this question: If two
hands clapping together sounds like a “clap”, what does one hand clapping together sound


♫ ♪ ♫ ♪

We Christians believe in an objective morality by faith and we proudly admit
that up front. Note: If the atheist would do that, that is, fully admit that his moral
code rests upon faith just as does the moral code of other religions, then atheism
would become just another religion in the mind of the atheist, and the problems
in your Opening Post would no longer exist.

… lol … Its a faith position when the atheist issues a proclamation that “pigs can fly.”


1 Like

The Golden Rule represents objective morality. One does not need to believe in God to appreciate the logic and moral force of the Golden Rule.

• I disagree. See post 15 for a discussion of your “objective” moral reality.

• Your, “Univerally Preferable Behavior”__Bremen, is just another way of
locating morality in human majority vote, which reduces morality to absurdity
and especially reduces any claim to “objective” moral reality to total and absolute


The Golden Rule locates morality in the objective standard of rational self-interest.

…and relies, ultimately, on FAITH…faith that everyone else will agree with you and abide by the Golden Rule, too.

Babies are born entirely amoral, selfish and self-involved. They want what they want WHEN they want it and protest LOUDLY when denied anything that they want. The process of teaching them to become moral, UNselfish people is called the process of acculturation, and is the responsibility of their PARENTS or other caretakers. Babies will NOT become so on their own.

1 Like

Faith? Sure, but not necessarily * religious * faith. It’s merely trust that others are similarly motivated by rational self-interest - the same trust that guides free market principles. The beauty of the Golden Rule is that it can be inferred on the basis of logic and reason, without the need for religion (although religions almost universally endorse the Golden Rule).

Moreover, that “faith” that others will abide by the Golden Rule can be backed up by the force of law - a conservative vision of the state anticipates that the government may legitimately involve itself in the remediation of rights violations.