Explaining Atheist Morality to a Christian Family

I recently "came out" as an Atheist to my Christian family. They responded well, though they asked a lot of questions about why I decided to leave the church and reject God. I explained my various grievances with the Church which they all agreed were valid points, yet hey were willing to overlook them, something I could not do.


Then my mother threw me a curveball. she said "If you have no God to hold youself accountable to, why bother being a good person, why not lie, steal and cheat?" I tried to explain how the right thing is still the right thing and how I didn't want to only to make the right choice because out of fear of punishment. I wanted to do the right thing because it was the right thing to do.


She then went on to ask me why it was the right thing to do, who said so? I responded with my conscience told me what was right. She asked me what told my conscience that right was right and wrong was wrong.


And this was where I said something along the lines of: "Uhh...buhhh...meh?"


So my question to you all is: Where do you base your morality from, and how do you defend that morality against people who believe that morality can only be based off of a God?

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Not sure why you would call that extreme, since that is exactly what most modern Western states practiced for the last few centuries and continue to do so.

Well, actually, not just the Western ones.  The Western ones just got away with it more because the accidents of history favored them.  Have you read Jared Diamond's book "Guns, Germs, and Steel"?  There is also a documentary film version of it that I highly recommend.


In-group, out-group morality is a well and objectively established phenomenon.  It helps us understand where our morality came from and where it is lacking and needs correction.  Hence, the second step I recommend:  Logic.  Morality comes from empathy and logic.

I didn't say just Western ones were involved in such behaviour. But Western ones are the only ones that I know that consider it "moral".

Again I am not sure what you mean by In-group, out-group morality being an "objectively" established phenomenon. If you mean it is what is to be found everywhere, I beg to differ. If you mean it has been found in some, sure.

The morality of the society that I come from certainly distinguishes between in-group and out-group, but the distinction is the exact opposite of the "objectively" established phenomenon that you speak of. In other words it is more heinous to harm someone outside the group than someone inside the group. In fact, the idea that murdering and plundering "others" is considered "moral" by anyone "normal" was so disgusting a thought that I didn't believe anyone would honestly say it, until of course reality forced me to.

As for your how to correct "morality", it is hilarious! So you are saying unless you are somehow convinced someone is "inside your group", this person risks being lied to, cheated or murdered by you if it benefits you and neither you nor anyone around you will find anything morally repugnant about. And if intend to "correct" this by "empathy" and "logic"? Are you going to use "empathy" and "logic" to convince everybody that everyone in the world is one group and hence one should not lie to, cheat, steal from and murder anyone? Since your "morals" don't prohibit you from lying to those outside the group, how does anyone outside your group even know if you are lying to them or telling the truth?

You base your morals on how your actions will effect those around you. You are accountable for your own actions. If you do something stupid then you face the consequences for it. So basically you base your morals on what will negatively and positively effect you, coupled with logic. That sounds kinda selfish, but it's true.
By that definition is immorality even possible?
That assumes that all people are sane, rational and logical.
So immoral is synonymous with insane, irrational or illogical?
Which means sanity is synonymous for boring. =(
Anyways there is no moral or immoral. There are just morals. Good and bad are purely speculative is why I say this.
As I was saying, the only honest position an atheist can take!
Morality is a concept - not an absolute. It varies from person to person, place to place & time to time. Most people today consider stoning someone to death is barbaric, but it still exists in places where tribal law prevails. All over the world, religions try hard to impose THEIR concept of morality. Hopefully,as religions lose their power over peoples minds, there will be great improvement in morals, generally speaking.

By "barbaric" do you mean "immoral"?


If yes, I find it amusing that you declare morality to vary from person to person and place to place and in the same paragraph declare as immoral what happens in a place different from yours.


If not, I will give you an example of what I consider absolutely disgusting and unimaginably barbaric: A bunch of people sitting before their TVs with popcorn in hand and watching live telecast of murder (not an execution, but plain murder) of defenceless people by their armed forces, a murder named "Shock and Awe". And there was no religion dictating them to do so either!


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