Do Atheists Have No Reason to be Moral?

The idea that atheists have no reason to be moral without a god or religion may be the most popular and repeated myth about atheism. It comes up in many forms and all are based on the assumption that the only valid source of morality is a theistic religion, preferably the religion of the speaker which is usually Christianity. Thus without Christianity, people cannot live moral lives. This is supposed to be a reason reject atheism and convert to Christianity but the argument fails because contrary to the beliefs of theists, their god and their religion are not needed for morality.

God Is Required for Morality

If religious theists find that they aren't getting anywhere arguing that there can't be any moral standards without their god, they sometimes switch to arguing that without a god to provide an objective set of standards then there is no way to choose which is the best among the various human standards — why not accept Nazi standards, for example? It's a mistake to assume that only a set of objective, absolute standards can provide us with any guidance in moral matters, though. An atheistic morality is not one that is necessarily lost or incapable of providing structure to our lives.

Morals and Values Prove that God Exists

Separate but connected, the arguments from morals and values make up what are known as the Axiological Arguments (axios = value). According to the Argument from Values the existence of universal human values and ideals means that there must be a God who created them.

The Argument from Morals asserts that morality can only be explained by the existence of a God who created us. This is a popular argument for God, but it fails.

Atheists Have No Reason to Care About Others

This myth may appear to be incoherent, but it's an expression of a popular theistic argument against atheistic materialism.

Religious theists believe that "immaterial" feelings like love cannot have a material basis and must, instead, come from our immaterial souls which are created by an immaterial God. If someone doesn't believe that such immaterial beings are real, then they must not believe that immaterial feelings like love are real. This is based on a fallacious argument that misrepresents atheism and materialism. 

Atheistic Evolution Cannot Account for the Human Conscience

If religious theists are unable to demonstrate that atheists cannot justify a morality outside of the existence of their god, then some switch to arguing that our desire to have a morality and our basic sense for what's right or wrong cannot exist without a god. We might be able to find rationalizations for our behavior outside of God, but ultimate we cannot avoid concluding that God is responsible for our having a conscience because that could never have evolved naturally. This is incorrect because evolution can explain the development of human morals. 

Atheists Can't Teach Right & Wrong to Children

There is a popular and mistaken perception among religious theists that irreligious atheists have no good reason to be moral and, therefore, cannot be as moral as religious theists.

Usually this misunderstanding is expressed as an abstract principle, removed from practical consequences; here, however, we have a myth that is just such a practical application of that misunderstanding. It's also completely untrue: atheists do not have trouble teaching morality to their children. 

Morality Requires Absolute, Objective Standards

How can we adopt a moral system without there being a God? If God does not exist, is there any basis for ever being moral? That's the fundamental issue when discussing atheistic and theistic morality — not whether atheistic morality exists at all but instead whether any atheistic morality can reasonably be adopted. Thus some religious theists argue that only the existence of objective standards which we are required to obey provide a secure basis for morality and moral behavior.

This is only one possible conception of morality, though, and probably not the best one. 

Atheists Have No Reason to Fear Death or Punishment

The myth that atheists have no reason to fear death or punishment is one of the oddest and most difficult to understand — but it is a real one that I've seen expressed by Christians. Not only is this myth the opposite of what reality is, but it doesn't even appear at first glance to contain an expected criticism like these myths usually do. So what if atheists don't fear death or punishment? Why is this a problem? The explanation is somewhat complex, but it appears that this is a problem if you believe that death and punishment are necessary for maintaining social order. 

Do Godless Morals & Values Exist? Are They Superior to Godly, Religious Values?

It';s common for religious theists to claim that their religious morality is far superior to secular, atheistic, and godless morality. Of course everyone prefers their own religious morality and the commands of their own god, but when push comes to shove the general attitude is that any religious morality based upon the commands of any god is vastly preferable to a secular morality that doesn't take any gods into account. Godless atheists are treated as the scourge of the earth and their "morality," if it is even recognized as such, is treated as the cause of all of society's ills. 

Atheists Let Whims of Society Define their Behavior, Morality

One of the most common distinctions which religious theists try to draw between themselves and atheists is how they follow absolute, objective, eternal, and transcendent standards laid down by God while atheists follow well, something much less and certainly not as good. There are thus many myths about atheists surrounding the presumed nature of what atheists believe and how they construct their sense of morality. In this one, atheists are told they base everything on the whims of society