Are Atheists Immoral?

Interesting comments here on the ethics of Atheism. Are atheists immoral? Like the speaker I would say no.

But what is the basis for their morality? Can a transcultural ethic be derived from Atheist principles? That’s where I become more skeptical, that’s where I see more confusion and muddled thinking. Ethical relativism pronounced with absolute conviction. That’s self contradictory.

10 thoughts on “Are Atheists Immoral?

  1. Maybe the question can be answered with another question..
    Is it possible for believers to be immoral?
    I think anyone can follow a code of ethics, just like a set of rules. The question is why.. so I would ask “why are some atheists moral?”
    I have no specific answer, but whereas I might answer I try to be moral because of the ‘law in my heart’, the atheist, not believing in the holy spirit must look to tradition, cultural awareness, parental uprbringing and the law.
    I think it’s derived from an unequal mixture of these for atheists – and I do not doubt for a second many theists morality may based on a mixture of these too (rather than following the holy spirit as they should).


  2. It is a question that has come up in synchroblogs before (not explicitly, but by implication).
    You can’t really derive morality from atheism, and many atheists totally misunderstand (and misrepresent) the religious roots of morality. Some atheists claim to derive morality from science, but I think that this is just whistling in the dark. You can’t easily get from an “is” to an “ought”.


  3. You can’t easily get from an “is” to an “ought” – that’s it precisely.
    Philosophers have spoken of truth, goodness and beauty as “transcendentals” preceisely because they have their own logic, precisely because they cannot be easily derived from one another. Truth has to do with “is”; goodness has to do with “ought”. They are different categories of reason.
    Evolution has nothing to say about what “ought” to exist. If scientific reasoning is the only sort of reasoning you value you’re not left with much to construct an ethic. What I see is it often degenerates into pure subjectivism. But then, how can you criticise those with a different ethic with any degree of self consistancy?


  4. Lex, I agree that many theists (and by this I mean monotheists, polytheists and pantheists) are not self consistant in their morality. One point I consistantly raise is the issue of state-church relations. I think we need to be consistantly Christological in our ethics, but that carries many political implications that are unpalatable for many Christians.


  5. What do you mean by being more “Christological” in ethics?
    Does debating the two natures of Christ make us more ethical (or less so, if the debate descends to fisticuffs, as it sometimes has)?


  6. Yes it is true that atheism does not provide the basis for a true virtue ethic, and it eventually leads to cultural barbarism.
    Then again neither does self-serving exoteric religiosity.
    Even a brief study of the applied politics of Christianity reveals that Christians have no reason to pretend to be superior in their applied ethics.
    This reference sums the situation up in stark detail.
    As an long-running applied example look at the murder and mayhem that ruined Christian Europe during the post-Reformation religious wars. All those “true believers” slaughtering each other over what—competing minds forms based on different interpretations of the Bible.
    A quote:
    “Where is TRUE MORAL VIRTUE? True moral virtue is only at the inherently egoless ROOT-CONTEXT of existence, or the heart-space of prior unity.The egoless root-context of existence is not separate and separative.
    Whenever human awareness is subordinated to the inherently egoless (and, thus, non-separate and non-separative) root-context of existence, human life becomes morally enlightened, in both voice and action, by the radiant virtue of selflessness.”


  7. Steve, what I mean is that there are many Christians who marginalise the relevance of Jesus and the resurrection when it comes to ethics. They are happy to be forgiven, they are happy their sins are atoned for, but they are not so happy with the suggestion that the lifestyle of Jesus – and the consequences that flow from it – should be normative for us. They avoid touching the untouchables. They restrict enemy love to the sphere of family values. They dodge it in many ways. Some selectively preference Old Testament teaching over New Testament teaching. Others use trinitarian teaching to “balance” the Son against the Father and Spirit. Others just boldly argue that we must be more “realistic”. My comment isn’t about the two natures of Christ but whether Christ is foundational for Christian ethics or merely a contributing factor.


  8. John, quoting, does this mean that you’re a mythicist? Serious question. The possibility never occured to me before. Do you really think Jesus never existed?
    As for so-called Christian politics, you’ll see from my previous comments to Steve that I regard most so-called Christian politics as nothing of the sort. Its not grounded in the ways of Christ, its grounded in everything else but. Its not an exercise in authentic Christianity, its an exercise in syncretism and split-level thinking.
    To quote G. K. Chesterton, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”


  9. Interesting given the bus slogan I recently posted up:
    I think that a lot of Dawkins-style atheists really ought to read the work of John Grey in ‘Straw Dogs’. Here we have an atheist philosopher who recognises that the moralist atheist emperor has no clothes and tries to construct a way forward. Probably the most successful I’ve seen, but a somewhat bleak world. I reckon a lot of atheists should fire in this particular debate until they have read this. Or Sartre …


  10. John, you sounded like you had something intelligent to say there until you quoted “Jesus never existed”. At that point it was clear you’re level of intellect would bore me and I switched off.


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