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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Ganapati, Our appeals are to REASON & LOGIC, NOT emotions. We leave the latter to religionists, of whatever variety. Bad morals have CONSEQUENCES - legal & /or social. Please try to wrap your mind around that.  A biblical reference to this CONCEPT is : as ye sow, so also shall ye reap.            Atheists simply do not believe that there is a god. PERIOD. No more - no less than this.

I am looking for nothing other than logic and reason. Immorality has negative consequences sure, but most often not for the actor or his/her ilk, but for some others. George W Bush (who both of us agree is a criminal) one a second term in office after obliterating a million lives and is retired and having fun on his ranch. His kin don't seem to be any worse off for his actions either.


If you are saying that being an atheist somehow makes a person abhor the negative implications of his/her actions on everyone else, I would like to know how that logically/reasonably follows.


Since the bible is not an authority for either of us, quoting from the bible is an unnecessary distraction.

It is important to remember that G.W.Bush is a Xian. He believes that his god will forgive whatever he does. He has merely to say : I'm sorry for my criminal invasion of Iraq & all my other crimes, & they are forgiven.  Atheists must live with all of their actions & failures to act.  George's own father was furious at his criminal invasion. But, when asked if he'd asked his father about invading Iraq, he replied that he had talked to his 'higher father'. The world has seen what that led to.

That's a good one! Perhaps why anyone cannot trust a person to act morally who believes his/her sins are forgiven once he/she confesses them!


But seriously, George W Bush's confession of sins absolves him only of divine retribution in the after-life, according to his professed faith. Any guilt for such actions is something he still have to live with. If he doesn't have it when he is a Christian, there is no reason to expect he will have it if he were an atheist.


It is quite evident that the possibility of a divine retribution in the after-life is not sufficient grounds for deterring someone from immoral behaviour if it also comes coupled with guarranteed absolution upon confession. At the same time lack of the possibility of divine retribution itself doesn't become a deterrant against immoral behaviour either.

G.W.Bush will simply live out his life 'in denial' that what he did was monstrous & criminal. I was 'a cradle Catholic'. We had weekly personal confession to a priest followed by communion the following day. At this time your slate was clean. All those boyhood sinful acts were forgiven. And new sins followed as night follows day. The same 'principle  applies to all Christian  misconduct.      Jimmy Swaggert is a national symbol of how this works.  On TV, he vehemently denounces all sin, with fervent conviction. He's then caught having sex with a prostitute. He then goes on national TV & cries like a child, confessing that he has sinned. In this case, the flock forgives him, not a priest. At least the more gullible forgive him.                                                  All of this is why Christians behavior, on the average is actually worse than that of Atheists. That is why there is only two tenths of one percent of the prison population that are Atheists, & the vast majority of the three million felons in America's prisons are Christians. Jesus forgave them, but our judicial system didn't.                                                                                                        G.W.Bush should have been impeached & subsequently tried & convicted as a war criminal. You may want to read  : The 1 % Doctrine, by Ron Salkind. He was a top man in the CIA. He documents Bush's culpability thoroughly.         Only Nancy Pelosi's failure to impeach him saved him from the ignominy & prosecution he so richly deserved.                                                                        By now, the great majority of Americans realize that Bush 2 was the very worst president in history. He lied to the American people, he liedto Congress, he is responsible for the deaths of all those Iraqi & American people. He increased our national debt by over a TRILLION DOLLARS. Wars must be paid for. Compare him to WW 2, when Roosevelt & subsequent presidents kept taxes high to pay for the war. Bush 2 said he was going to "grow the economy".  Look where this has gotten our country.

When you quote US prison statistics in support of atheist morality, you are really reaching.


Given the apparent bias against those who call themselves atheists in the general population, I am quite surprised anyone indicted of serious crimes that could lead to a possible conviction and prison sentence ever declaring himself/herself an atheist. In addition prison population reflects only those criminals who were caught and convicted. Smart criminals are most likely to avoid getting caught and convicted. If atheism on a large scale is a recent phenomenon, most would have reasoned their way into atheism rather than never indoctrinated into a religion, which would mean generally smarter than the average person anyway. A claim most atheists make and I find reasonable. So the chances of an atheist criminal getting caught and convicted are significantly lower than a religious one, because he/she represents a group that is smarter than the rest.

There is an offsetting consideration you should take into account.  Our police and judges are almost uniformly (no pun intended) theists, and they discriminate--often quite openly--in favor of those who share their religious convictions (again, no pun intended--well, maybe a little).  Furthermore, the religious protect each other in other ways, such as by refusing to tell the truth about what their fellows did or giving the guilty the piece of information they need to silence witnesses.



It is quite possible that the awesome disparity between Xians & Atheists in our prisons is due to the higher intelligence of the Atheists. But this wouldn't BEGIN to explain why so many millions of Xians are in prison.  They are there because their faith does not inhibit their criminal acts.  We Atheists are compelled to LIVE WITH all that we do. We don't have a god that says : that's OK, as long as you regret having done this wrong thing, but don't do it again.

Mo Traven


It was quite interesting to know how reliable the US "justice" system is! Just another reason why the US prison statistics shouldn't enter a discussion that is supposed to involve critical thinking.

William C. Walker,


Religious immoral people (in prisons or not) definitely prove that religion is not a deterrant against immorality. However the counter claim is rather funny. You are assuming that people can't live with harming others if there is no God/Church to forgive their actions. People actually have a bigger reason to not even fell guilt in the first place in committing such actions, their personal benefit. I don't find any logic or reason in assuming that godless people automatically become selfless.

As you point out, the primary lesson to be drawn from U.S. prison statistics is that the assertion that religion leads to greater morality appears to be untrue unless and until someone can explain the apparent gross over-representation of Christians amongst U.S. criminals.  You are right to say that there is no obvious reason to assume godlessness will lead to greater selflessness.  Yet, there seems to be a correlation between those two things for some reason as the crime statistics from godless countries show.


My personal belief is that the "win at all costs" attitude that drives religion is the underlying cause for both religion and the apparent increased crime rate amongst the religious.





everyone's already beat me too it, but show her that morality that comes sctrickly from the bible is flawed and incomplete. ask her were she gets the rest of her morality from, and bingo..that's where your's comes from. 


this is a blog post that i wrote on the ten commandments a while ago. It doesnt go over the teachings of jesus, but the comandments are usually the first thing people talk about when they say they get their morality from god. hope it helps!




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