Whenever I come out Atheist .. they assume I must have no ethics or morals whatsoever and that I am willing to do just about anything --- like lie, cheat and steal.

Anyone else have this happen to them?

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What kind of logic is that?! I hate how atheism supposedly makes you a "bad person." I'm still in the closet, so I wouldn't know what this is like...

It's because of their belief that all morality stems from god.  Therefore, by their flawed logic, if one doesn't believe in god, then one doesn't believe in morality.  But it's not true, people can be good without god and we're living proof.

I agree with Chris. Look them in the eye and insist we can be good without god. If they don't "get it" ask if they personally have a sense of right and wrong, even for a completely novel situation, or if they need to look up an action in their holy book to tell if it's right. If they know they have an inherent moral sensibility, why not admit it's human nature?

I will do that! Thank you Ruth and Chris!

That's a double-edged argument.  The religionists could argue that the very fact that an inherent moral sensibility is possible in humans, is "proof" that we are all made in god's image, and that there is a divine spark within all of us.  Then, atheism would be a denial of such a spark.  An atheist could be "good", in the sense of being a decent person, in spite of his/her theological orientation.  But the atheist would still be guilty of the ultimate hypocrisy - acting in accordance with god's intent, while denying the author of that intent.

The refutation is that standards of morality vary greatly between cultures and epochs.  What some cultures regard as empathy and charity, others regard as betrayal of the tribe.  Human equality is a comparatively new concept and is largely missing from all religions, especially the Abrahamic ones.  By this reasoning, if our internal moral compass is divinely-inspired, then god seems to change his mind an awful lot - and such a god is hardly worth worshiping. 

Good argument Michael! Firstly, if the conversation has started because the theist has accused the atheist of being immoral, then they would have to admit that we can all be moral whether we believe in god or not. Then at least we are in a stand-off. The most they could accuse us of is not believing in god, and as you say to them this appears to be perhaps a hypocrisy (but I wouldn't say "the ultimate hypocrisy", and even hypocrisy may be the wrong word since we never said one thing and did another). And you mean "response" or "counterargument", not "refutation". Your counterargument is a solid one, actually very good indeed, but it is not proof in the mathematical or even in the logical sense. People mistake logic for reasoning when they are actually quite distinct. Also, you might want to throw cannibalism in there, and polygamy, and marrying first cousins, etc., all of which show that morality is a difficult thing to pin down.

Thank you Jedi - good reply. Appreciate it.

Totally agree Steph.  We are moral and ethical because it's the right thing to do, not because 'god' told us to, or we're afraid of going to 'hell'.

No doubt!

Yes, Mr. M - that response is exactly what I am talking about here. They assume I am an evil and a vile person because I am Atheist.

Have these people even bothered to give you their definition of "evil" and "vile"... It might turn out that the only thing in their minds that makes you evil and vile is the lack of belief! In which case, they are not really talking about morality anymore and their whole argument fails. Just a thought.

Ah, and before I forget, remember something Christopher Hitchens used to say: "We don't get our morals from religion, religion gets their morals from us". (Or something like that)

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