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Atheist's and morals, where do they come from?

Updated on February 12, 2014

Anyone who's been an atheist for more than 5 minutes has undoubtedly been asked the question "where do you get your morals from?". This is one of those questions that really makes me mad, it's right up there with "why do you hate god?" and "wouldn't you be happier if you believed in god?".

The first time I was asked this question, I was left speechless. It blew my mind that anyone who bases their life on a book filled with rape, murder, and all kinds of stuff that belongs in a NC-17 rated movie, and follows religions that not only condones and forgives these acts, but covers up things like child abuse, could ask a question like that with a straight face. Of course everyone who's religious doesn't think all these things are all fine and okay, but that's besides the point.

It's not the question itself that upsets me, it's the ignorance behind it. It amazes me how many confuse true morals with fear and desire. I hate to break it to you, but if you don't steal your neighbors car because you want to go to heaven instead of hell, that's not morals. I, like most atheists, make most of my moral related decisions based on who I want to be and how I want to be remembered, not fear of what might happen when I die.

When all is said in done, whether you are religious or not, morals should be about how you live, not what happens when you die. Good or bad, religion has no place in morals.


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  • Sapper profile image

    Sapper 5 years ago from Box Elder, SD

    Empathy is a big part of morals, but even with that in the most general way it comes down to how you want to be remembered. Whether you want to "live forever" in other peoples thoughts, or you want to push others into living better lives by being kinder to one another, it all comes down to that.

    People approach atheism in many different ways, but the one thing we all agree on is when you die there is nothing else. So every single one of us bases our morals on how we want to be remembered, no matter if that is the main source, or a small part.

  • Paladin_ profile image

    Paladin_ 5 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Sapper, I appreciate that you've taken the time to approach this very important subject, but I must admit I cringed a bit when I read that you base your morals on how you wish to be remembered. For once, I somewhat agree with Planks.

    I suppose it's difficult sometimes for someone to encapsulate their entire moral philosophy in a single sentence, but I've long felt that the basis of morality should be EMPATHY -- as expressed crudely in the maxim that we should "do unto others as we would have them do to us."

    Still, I wholeheartedly concur with your point that morals should be more about how we live, not about what happens when we die.

    As for the notion of the Christian God being an absolute moral authority, it's complete rubbish. There is ONLY ONE absolute in the Bible (and it has NOTHING to do with morals) -- that you must accept, obey and worship God. EVERYTHING else (including standards of morality) is simply up to God's latest whim.

    That's not moral consistency. It's moral capitulation.

  • jonnycomelately profile image

    Alan 5 years ago from Tasmania

    Sapper, thanks for this Hub. I hope it goes at least part of the way to helping others who are fed up with the BS that comes with christianism.

    From my point of view, the bible-thumping, fundamentalist, opinionated evangelism is predominantly selfish and self-centred.

    The concept of "being saved" comes from the hope that if everyone else fails to get into God's good books, at least I will be safe. So let me find out all the rules, follow every one of them, (religiously!) and if there is something I missed or messed up then He will forgive me and I'll arrive up there ok.

    Individuals who latch on to this stuff seem to have stopped thinking further, in my opinion. They become fanatical very often. They don't really have any concern for the next person's needs, unless of course that person is also a christian..... then they get help. But unconditional help is rarely available..... you gotta get saved, Man!

    On the other hand, if you think of people who spend most of their time actually, physically, selflessly helping others do not have the time to argue about rubbish. If they have a faith, it tends to be a working relationship with life and their neighbours. They work with an inner peace and knowledge that some things are beyond their understanding and do not need much attention.

  • Sapper profile image

    Sapper 5 years ago from Box Elder, SD

    You are confusing morals with laws. If you don't kill someone because you don't want to go to jail, or because it isn't socially acceptable, you aren't making the decision based on morals. The one and only place morals can come from is within your self, anything else would be laws, ethics, any other name you want to give it.

    The main difference is laws and ethics have a grey area, morals don't. If a cop kills someone in the line of duty, or if you kill someone in self defense, legally nothing was done wrong. But morally, killing is killing, no matter the situation. What is morally acceptable for you can, and in most situations, will be different from what I or anyone else see's as morally acceptable, that's what makes morals different.

  • PlanksandNails profile image

    PlanksandNails 5 years ago from among the called out ones of the ekklesia of Christ


    You define morality on your own terms.

    There is a distinction between what people do and what they ought to do.

    Morals are about what we do, ethics are about what we ought to do.

    For example, you may may act in a certain way in society for reasons of not wanting to go to jail, or by following the rules to look good to others, but what is the ultimate reason for it?

    ( I, like most atheists, make most of my moral related decisions based on who I want to be and how I want to be remembered")

    It is about self.

    When there is no ultimate moral authority everything is relative to one's own personal opinion.

    ("When all is said in done, whether you are religious or not, morals should be about how you live, not what happens when you die. Good or bad, religion has no place in morals.")

    Morals are about how we live, but cannot be truly defined unless there is knowledge of the absolute moral laws; otherwise, it all is relative.

    What is morally acceptable in one society is deemed immoral in another, but what happens when the constraints of society are removed?

  • Captainausume profile image

    Captainausume 5 years ago from New Jersey

    The same place we all do: The sense of right and wrong that we develop from childhood on. There are other reasons to be good either than for a deity.

  • profile image

    tigresosal 5 years ago

    A very nice hub on a very critical issue. To me, being honest and adhering to socially acceptable and non-debatable moral values is one of the easiest and profitable ways to lead life. Dishonesty and immoral life may bring short term benefits, but with a package of huge long term cost. That is what makes atheists get morals from. It serves a purpose of economic value addition to life. On the other hand theists live a moral life because of the fear of God (i.e., punishments after death) or for getting blessings for their good deeds (i.e., a place in the heaven). In that sense, moral atheists are superior than moral theists.