The Atheist’s Moral Code

As an atheist — really, just as a person — I believe that murder, rape or any harm to another person is wrong. I believe that all people should act with integrity, and that means not lying, cheating or stealing. I believe we should work together for a better world, and that we are all equal and deserving of basic human rights and the necessities of food, water, shelter, security and peace.

My morality is pretty similar to a believer’s morality, without the need to throw in the wrath of a higher power as the reason for behaving properly. That’s not because I’m borrowing some morality from religion, but because morality is part of the human condition. We’ve evolved a moral code that ensures our cooperation and cohesion. Living well together — in tribes, groups, cities, what-have-you — improves our odds of survival. And if we survive, we are more likely to procreate. And if we aren’t running around killing one another’s babies, stealing each other’s food, or otherwise harming one another, our offspring are more likely to survive until the age of reproductive maturity. We just want to pass along our genetic code, and teamwork is one way to make that more likely. Morality makes the team work better together.

Many believers have asked me how I can live my life with morality if I don’t believe in god. Every uncloseted atheist has heard this question and I doubt I’m alone in my exasperation of the small mindedness of it. The Bible is loaded with storie of god sanctioning rape, murder (including infanticide), and slavery, among other atrocities. Many Christians will claim that the Bible was written in a different time, so it must be regarded in that light. If we are to believe Christians’ supposition that the Bible is the source for all morality, this makes no sense. First, this claim illustrates that morality is an ever evolving code. And second, if we are now picking and choosing which parts of the Bible apply to us now, that calls into question the entire text.

I smile to myself when people ask me, “How will you teach your son morals without god?” I think they imagine us burning cats at the stake, having nightly orgies, and going out for rape and pillage jaunts. Folks, I assure you, we’re just as boringly moralistic as most people. 


8 thoughts on “The Atheist’s Moral Code

  1. As a fellow atheist and mother of 5 daughters, I am definitely relating to your ways of thinking. Loving your blog so far… still waiting for more

  2. Morals are a result of 2 mental functions, sentience and sapience. Sentience is the understanding and acceptence of ones own existence as well as co-existing organisms, while sapience is the aptitude to preform judgment in a complex, dynamic environment. Combined, these create what most people refer to “morals”. They create the ability to access any given situations outcome or consequence, and reflect as to how it will directly and indirectly effect one self and co-existing organisms.

    Understanding that every organism posses a cognitive persuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain, morals can be defined by ones ability to access events and consequences (cause and effect), and how they will either satisfy or hurt one self and co-existing organisms, directly or indirectly.

    When applied in a group setting, judgements are largley based on the group history and group expectation, and less based on self-reflection and subjective analysis of surrounding events and potential consequenses. Direct group satisfaction often takes presidence over long term or indirect negative consequences, resulting in a misconstrued belief system or dysfunctional social groups.

    Simply put… our ability to decide what hurts us and what helps us is our moral guide, and there’s not really much else needed.

  3. My good friend and work partner told me about your blog. I have been reading and re-reading it & want you to know how much I appreciate your thoughts. You articulate your beliefs so well & it has been encouraging for me as I am searching for answers to my own questions on the matter. Thank you! Anxiously awaiting your next post.

  4. Good morning, trying understand where you are coming from. On what basis do you build your morality. Who are you to assert that murder, rape and harming others is wrong? Are they wrong or are they less than ideal for society? Thanks.

  5. Atheism is for losers.

    “I base my beliefs on Schience and what’s obsewabwle”
    “god isnt real because of proof”

    Ignorant. You’ll find the more science you know past a certain point the more you’ll lean towards Christianity. Also, not general Christianity. Certain denominations. I’ve gone from belief to non belief to belief again many times and always conclude with ID.

    I believe in evolution btw.

  6. I’m a believer. I should probably start there. If you’re still reading, thank you for your time. IMHO I have always seen God’s revelation as progressive and my understanding of it imperfect. In focussing on my particular journey I have found that sense of right and wrong can often defy logic and natural selection. Doing good is a choice and the impulse to d so comes from somewhere and so I choose faith. I stumbled on your blog not to change your mind or to argue truth or even to judge. It is my hope that believers and athiests can learn to at least find tolerance and compassion towards one another. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and making the choice to live a valued life.

  7. I thank you for this writing. I am a Christian trying to understand the athiest point of view. This article has helped although I very much dislike the “small mindedness” comment. It seems to me that the athiest always have to degrade theist to make their points and that athiest have some kind of superior intellegience. If every athiest can have a different moral standard, there is no definitive right or wrong. This seems logical to me.

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