How to respond to the stereotypical "atheists have no morals" question.

Its seems that whenever I end up into a overwhelmingly misinformed theist friend, this peculiar phrase pops up. The question of a set standard that all atheists adhere to seems counter-intuitive in the fact that there is no overarching dogma in atheism. Is there a good simple response to this someone can share with me? All of the online explanations of this are too long/to complicated for the type of discussions I have. All feedback is welcome.

Tags: atheism, morals

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"I can't speak for other atheists. Be specific, which ethics or morals am I lacking?"
I suppose the question is one we should all consider personally from time to time, just to keep ourselves honest.

I like your answer, Greg.  Give the theist the task of explaining how you, personally, are not meeting societal and acceptable guidelines for moral behavior. 

I guess if I was presented with the question of where I get my morals, I'd have to answer:  "quite simply, by using common sense."   

Aaron,

You have a thoughtful question.

You might pose it here as well.  Ethics and the Atheist.

One of the posts on that group is this video....

 
I find this video very moving. Maybe it helps some with your question.

Try the Richard Dawkins question: So it's only your belief that stops you from looting and raping?

This reminds me of a neat quote from Penn Jillette that says:

The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what's to stop me from raping all I want? And my anser is: I do rape all I want. And the amout I want is zero. And I do murder all I want, and the amount I want is zero. The fact that these people think that if they didn't have this person watching over them that they would go on killing & raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine. - Penn Jillette

Here is a neat post from StephS on this site regarding that quote and Penns feelings on morality.

Any person who says things like that are either idiots or they're just trying to wind you up and fuck you in the arse.

You either laugh at them or punch their fucking heads in. They are the big losers in life unless they are fraudsters making money out of it or manipulating others with their false persona and evil.

At the same time be careful of them because they are generally multi-faced confidence tricksters and would try and put a knife in your back.

Don't give them anything.

I don't know if it was fellow A|N member Loren who originated the quote, but the first time I heard was when he mentioned it. And, I;m paraphrasing here. "If you lead a moral life because of the threat of hell, you're really not moral. Your just a coward that responds well to threats."

If it takes the threat of hell to make you a moral person, then you are not at all moral, you are just a coward who responds well to threats.
-- Leo Wolf

[I got a Word file full of this stuff! {grin!}]

I love this, thanks!

If humankind acts morally with each other, it's because there was a time when doing so was a survival imperative.  As has been stated many times, we're not the fastest or the strongest in any venue I'm aware of ... but we can think and work together.  In the hostile environment of 200,000 years ago, we HAD to.  We could make observations, learn from them, whether to repeat an action because it is beneficial or avoid it because it isn't.  Homo sapiens has developed mirror neurons which allow us to feel someone else's pain or pleasure and recognize the importance not just of ourselves but of the group we belong to, because the health of the group may mean the health and survival of each individual in it, me included.  Consequentialism and empathy are two very large (to me, anyway) components which encompass the origins of morals in our species.

This is what John Donne was talking about when he wrote "For Whom the Bell Tolls," though at a far more fundamental level.  It doesn't take stone tablets, written by some unseen god, but a recognition that, in the final analysis, we can't survive alone.

I've saved that.  Thanks Loren.

All the answers on here are very good! This subject was addressed recently on a Catholic TV program where the now devout Catholic lady, (once an ahteist) stated that we do indeed get our morals from god. If survival of the fittest was the way things worked we would all be killing each other and stealing each others food, she said. The program host agreed.

I have news for these people! We are STILL killing each other and stealing each others food. We do it in a more "civilized" way now.

Where do we get our morals? By the dictates of our society and its laws, and by using common sense. If you believe your morals came from god, please explain for me how morality is different in other nations. Also try to explain morality in the ancient past. It may not have been "our morality" but mankind has always had some form of morality.

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