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15 "Is there such a thing as atheist morality?"




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This article is from the Atheism FAQ, by mathew meta@pobox.com with numerous contributions by others.

15 "Is there such a thing as atheist morality?"

If you mean "Is there such a thing as morality for atheists?", then
the answer is yes, as explained above. Many atheists have ideas about
morality which are at least as strong as those held by religious
people.

If you mean "Does atheism have a characteristic moral code?", then the
answer is no. Atheism by itself does not imply anything much about how
a person will behave. Most atheists follow many of the same "moral
rules" as theists, but for different reasons. Atheists view morality
as something created by humans, according to the way humans feel the
world 'ought' to work, rather than seeing it as a set of rules decreed
by a supernatural being.

"Then aren't atheists just theists who are denying God?"

A study by the Freedom From Religion Foundation found that over 90% of
the atheists who responded became atheists because religion did not
work for them. They had found that religious beliefs were
fundamentally incompatible with what they observed around them.

Atheists are not unbelievers through ignorance or denial; they are
unbelievers through choice. The vast majority of them have spent time
studying one or more religions, sometimes in very great depth. They
have made a careful and considered decision to reject religious
beliefs.

This decision may, of course, be an inevitable consequence of that
individual's personality. For a naturally sceptical person, the choice
of atheism is often the only one that makes sense, and hence the only
choice that person can honestly make.

The word "deny" can be used to mean "fail to accept the truth of". In
that sense only, atheists deny the existence of God. They are not "in
denial", wilfully ignoring evidence; nor do they necessarily
positively assert the non-existence of God.

"But surely discussing God in this way is a tacit admission that he
exists?"

Not at all. People talk about Santa Claus every Christmas; that
doesn't mean he climbs down the chimney and leaves us all presents.
Players of fantasy games discuss all kinds of strange creatures, from
orcs and goblins to titans and medusas. They don't exist either.

 

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