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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The war in Iraq was driven in part by religion.  I am quite surprised that you would deny that this is true.  The greed of the American neocons and Bush's personal vendetta drove it in part as well, but the religious underpinnings are quite obvious.

Are you referring to George W Bush claiming God told him to invade Iraq?

I haven't heard any Christian give a religious justification for invading Iraq, although a lot of non-Christians accusing the Christians of having a religious agenda behind their support for the invasion.

I was living in that nation of psychopaths (which I didn't realise until then) at that time. One unmistakable thing I noticed in every news bulletin (on ABC and CNN that I watched) about Iraq was how it was sitting on the second largest reserves of oil.

I refer you to the following:



My personal "commandments:"

1. Strive to make a positive impact

2. Strive to do no harm

3. Enjoy life


A god or religion is not necessary for anything, including morality or "commandments" to live by.

Ganapoti, G.W.Bush's invasion of Iraq was criminal & he should have been impeached & held up as a war criminal, & convicted.
He was reelected. However, I am not surprised. It simply confirmed my strong suspicion that it is a nation of psychopaths.

Ganapati:  "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'."


Really?!!  How do you explain the history of China, Japan, and Islam, just to name a few clear examples that come immediately to mind?

Whether they considered it 'moral' at that time is immaterial to me today. Whether todays people still call those actions moral is what is relevant. I haven't met any Chinese, Japanese (and I know a few Chinese and Japanese) justifying such actions as 'moral'. Islam is not a society, it is a religion adopted by many societies.


People and societies do act in contravention of their own accepted morality. When they do and if they are not incorrigible, they make amends and guard themselves against such behaviour in future.

Ganapati:  "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."


Really?!! (Yes, again.)  Please do give me some specifics.  I have never heard of a group that didn't behave that way, unless there was a specific philosophical or religious position that held sway in the population, thus making the usual type of behavior and attitude cause for loss of status within the group.

I live in India and that has been the morality of the place for all of recorded history.

Ganapati:  "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?"


Wow!  Just wow!  Where the hell did that shit come from?!!  Do you know what a strawman argument is?  This certainly strikes me as one.


Obviously, what I meant was that the natural tendency toward in-group morality tells us that our moral sense evolved to allow us to live in groups, peacefully and cooperatively.  Logically, the best course of action for mankind at this juncture in history is to recognize the limitations of this paradigm as well as the harm it causes by turning everyone else into an out-group member.  Logically, mankind needs to reject this type of thinking, which will require a sea change in our thinking and may not even be possible.  But, we have to try because our future depends on it.  Even if mankind survives as a species, this tendency will make our future as horrific as our past--though this time the casualty figures will have more zeros at the end.


I have to tell you Ganapati, I am sensing extreme anti-Western bias on your part.  So much so, that you are jumping to twisted conclusions about what I write.  Bigotry is never attractive, especially in a forum such as this one for the like-minded.

Well what you stated wasn't very obvious and I apologise for misunderstanding your position.


But I don't see how that follows logically. What is the goal of the new morality you are proposing and what is the basis for such goal. That you and some others like it?


Yes, I have an extreme anti-bandit bias, regardless of what the society is. And I am heavily biased against any "morality" that justifies or condones banditry. Declaring certain behaviours as moral is promising to engage in such behaviour in future.


Not believing in God doesn't tell what else you believe in. As is evident some here have declared that there exists no objective standards for morality, while you differ. Whether we are like-minded are not is something that is left for us to discover and not begin with as an assuption.

I wanted to add something here.


It appears the goal of the morality you are proposing is reducing casuality figures in inter-society conflicts. And your method is appealing to emotions, not to reason or logic, because even you are not sure your proposed morality (whatever it is, since that hasn't yet been pronounced) will achieve that goal.


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