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Has anyone else had a religious friend ask where your sense of morality comes from? Didn’t really know what to say except that I enjoy making people feel good. Treat people as you want to be treated. That’s psych 101 to me...

Sbaren00 4 Sep 19

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When I walked away from church and religion, I had one of the elder's wife call me up to get me back in. At one point, she argued that christianity is great is wonderful b/c w/o it we wouldn't have all the medical hospitals (Babtist Memorial, lebonheur methodist, etc.) I asked her how all the people in China and India have gotten medical care if only christianity is responsible for caring and compassion towards others. All I got in response was <crickets>


Tried to find an attribution for the quote and could not immediately do so, but it is basically...

If you need the threat of eternal punishment to keep you from doing harm to others, you are not a good person.
You are a psychopath on a leash.


"The world is my country, to do good is my religion." .....Tom Paine.


This I think is one of the best retorts to that question.
I don't know who coined it though.

If you can't tell the difference between right and wrong, you don't lack religion, you lack empathy.


Very well said.

I was just getting ready to post that Penn Jillette has a great talk on atheist morality.


I tell people my sense of morality comes from the same place the rest of me comes from; the processes of evolution.

skado Level 8 Sep 19, 2018

Short and sweet.

Yes, I have been asked.  I always say that my moral code is based on the concept of minimal violation of (1) human dignity and respect, (2) environmental sustainability.  The vast majority of our moral choices in life are choices between comparative rights and wrongs ( between greater and lesser goods or between the lesser of two evils), NOT between absolutes.  That is a much more defensible moral code than one based on religion.

My sense of morality stems from having a healthy respect for all life and a desire to live in harmony with my fellow creatures on this planet


My reply...

If you need a book to tell you your morals: you are just a naturally immoral person. If you are choosing a book for morals, try one which says rape is wrong, slavery is wrong, and killing people for mild infractions is wrong.


Indeed, I have... And she knew better, but she asked anyway.
I told her what I always tell them:

"My morality comes from me. I rape as much as I want and I kill as much as I want. And on both counts, that number is 0.
I don't need some book to tell me whats right and what's wrong. I can see it for myself.
And by the by... Getting morality from the bible is questionable. Considering it condones incest, rape, murder, slavery, etc. All the things that a normal society condemns."


That’s a scary question, because that means the only reason they are moral is due to their belief in god. That’s why if someone could ever produce an unarguable proof god doesn’t exist, then I hope they keep it to themselves. If that happens the religious right will start the apocalypse.

When I was a practicing pagan, a Christian told me that he "wished' he could be pagan or atheist because then, he could do whatever he wanted. Kinda scary--what did he want to do? If religion kept him from murdering and raping, then he needed religion. I feel that atheists have the higher ethical/moral ground: we choose to be ethical--it is not because we fear being punished if we are not.

That's correct. I've told a few of them that I can't trust them because their morality is based on an imaginary sky fairy. And when they find out the fallacy, their morality is likely to be dangerous, because they are not being controlled.

Of course, just as they are not going to change my mind on the issue, I will not change theirs.

Religion was not called the opiate for the masses, for no reason. It was invented to control people who need rules to behave among other people. A lot of arseholes behave better than they would because of that control.


Morality is inherent in animals, or at least mammals. There is no need of a book with a set of rules for that.

Consider the case of a pet dog.
Once you start taking care of it, it tries to show the affection back to you.
Which religion does it follow to exhibit this morality? ?

LOL Grizzly Bears and Tigers are mammals too.....

Morality requires the ability to reason and to judge the consequences of actions.
Dogs show affection back to an affectionate human (in general) because they have been domesticated, are affectionate with their "pack" naturally, and recognize your superiority as "leader of the pack" in providing food, shelter, and safety. Instinctually, they are hard-wired to "please" you so that they can continue to eat and be safe.

I think this may be my favorite argument. Well put, sir.


Morality exists because of our social evolution. Family groupings are the basis of it. We would have never succeeded in our early history, without moral cooperation within a tribe or social grouping. This is what I believe. I recommend a book called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harrari. Very enlightening .

When it comes to the origin of morality, Harari is rather sketchy. If you want to get the whole story, you should read "A natural history of human morality" by Michael Tomasello

@Matias Thank you for the recommendation. I will add it to my list of literature to consume.


The bible is full of rape, slavery, homophobia, misogyny and murder. Where is the morality here? It's hypocrisy pure and simple.

Nothing has changed. Things are still the same today. Chalk up the Bible as a collection of journals/diaries at best.

I expressed those same thoughts on the Bible. This person quickly said, “well, I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” Ugh ?

@Sbaren00 hmmm. Spiritual vs religious always seems a cop-out to me. I feel that people use the term to describe a situation where they know the "scriptures" or the bible or whatever are horseshit, but have some kind of duality where they still believe in the deities. Sometimes these people will "go to church for their kids", something that in itself should be criminal brainwashing.

@Sbaren00 I have found it necessary to have them define where they get morality first. Clarify their definition tying it back to what their god desires - then nail them with the monster their made-up god represents.


I would tell them, from evolved human nature, supplemented by reason, knowledge of history and cultural inheritance; in other words from the same place as yours. Only mine is modest, tries to move on, adapt and keep up with the times, it does not pretend to be perfect, to have finally answered every question or to do so by claiming a false divine authority which keeps it ill adapted and only suited to a distant primitive past. Religious morality is only secular morality trying to big itself up with extra authority, which in the end only makes it harshly inhuman an inflexible.

I would then like to point out that the fact that as there are so many different religious moralities, often deeply at odds with one another, they surely follow exactly the pattern I would expect from early pre-global communications cultures, if they were in fact secular moralities, and that if they were inspired by god they would all be the same, or at least as similar as the modern consensus seem to be. Therefore religious morality is a very strong proof that there is no god!


I had known a guy for several years but he had never asked what religion I was. When asked I told him I was an atheist and his immediate response was "But you seem so moral." I explained that morals don't come from holy books and it was pretty easy because his ex had an affair with their preacher and his brother isn't a very ethical person to put it mildly although he is very religious. I didn't bring up those things directly but tend to nudge toward them when circumstances warrant.

gearl Level 7 Sep 20, 2018

It seems this is a question a lot of people ask of atheists, though I've never had anyone ask me that outright. The closest was a friend talking about absolute, objective truth. The problem in answering about morality is that the question itself has some serious problems. In particular, the idea of objective morality isn't a given just because someone believes in a god. There are some very different views on what's moral between different religions and even within the same religion. There's no moral universality among believers, so the question is implicitly asserting something that ostensibly sets it apart from non-theism but is patently false.

Some things I'd say:

  • Why isn't your morality the same as the Hindus? Or the Muslims? Or the Buddhists? Or the Westboro Baptist Church? Why are there differences among the devout?

  • Why don't you follow every letter of scripture? Why do you pick and choose what's moral and what's not? Where does your morality come from when you acknowledge that there's immorality in stoning people to death for working on the Sabbath or to kill children for disobedience or for a father to sacrifice a son because he has a voice in his head telling him to do so? New covenant?! No, that doesn't apply unless something specific was addressed, because Jesus is quoted as saying that he came not to abolish the law but rather to fulfill it. He never said anything about slavery, for instance, and Paul even provided rules for slaves to obey masters, yet most people today acknowledge that slavery is an immoral practice. Where does this moral sense come from, as it obviously doesn't come from God.

  • It's pretty easy in most cases to determine what's good and bad, or at least better and worse, based upon human experience of those things — basic things in our day-to-day experience. There are moral dilemmas that ethicists labor over, but generally it's not difficult to see why pain is less desirable than pleasure or how losing a limb is a handicap. We have an experience of what's healthy and unhealthy for society and for individuals, and each community and person is different but we tend to see similarities emerge early on in human development, even in things as simple as empathy. There are survival elements baked into human brain wiring, and that is part of our morality. We can think in non-religious terms about the value of life and choice and so on and come to some better understanding of what's good and bad or why there's conflict in making such determinations. It's complex, but it's clear that one's belief in God alone is insufficient to provide an objective moral framework.

  • We see moral structures emerge in other animals to varying degrees, guiding interactions with others in their community. The more social the species, the more advanced these structures are. We don't see wolves praying to Jesus, or chimps praying to Vishnu, or lions praying to Allah, yet we see moral principles at work. Without a belief in God, monkeys have a sense of fairness. How? Likewise, humans develop rudimentary moral sense in early childhood, without a clear concept of God (to say nothing of belief).


I think that, as human beings, we are responsible to one another and to future generations, rather than to some imaginary friend in the sky. My morality is based on that responsibility to others.


People know right from wrong. You do not need church to know you should not kill, steal, lie or cheat. If church were necessary to know such stuff, then why do so many ministers and priests get in trouble for immoral behavior.


Lots of religious people (not friends) ask that question. I like to begin by asking them where they get their morality - - - then clarify . . . So things that please your god are defined as moral? Then I talk about bible goodies - - -I'll just post a link - - [] I also include moral to own a slave and beat him/her as long as the slave does not die right away. . . or for a man to sell his daughter as a sex slave when she is old enough to bleed. etc is all, according to the teachings of his bible, rules that please his god so they are moral.

I had brought that up when she mentioned the Bible. I find it insane that people can’t give themselves more credit. This person I had the discussion with is not a bad person. People need to have more “faith” in themselves and less is .


I haven't been asked that directly but I have seen it asked. The question really seems to be a passive/aggressive insult to imply that Agnostics have no ability to tell right from wrong. Are Christians really so lacking in a natural sense of morality that they require an instruction manual that they claim to derive from the Bible? No, so the purpose of asking the question is really as mentioned, a passive/aggressive or marginally disguised insult or they are simply unbelievably stupid or some combination of the two..

OCJoe Level 6 Sep 20, 2018

100% spot on.... The Golden Rule! Most religious types I have known are fake and have a lack of morality. I love to watch people's face when the subject comes up and I let them know that I am not a Christian. That is usually followed by, Well, wh...wh... what are you?" I just say "Atheist" with a wink of my eye!

I prefer the Platinum Rule.
Treat people as they wish to be treated. They don’t care about how I want to be treated. It’s not relevant to them. Think about it. ?

@darthfaja I have been referring to the platinum rule quite a bit at my work. I train doctors and staff how to talk to patients and they don't always see that what the patient wants might be different from what they would want. Nice to see others recognizing the value of the platinum rule!
Besides, the golden rule is mentioned in the bible, so referencing something not in there seems more appropriate. 🙂

@Tinocca I work in medicine. As a group we keep up on these type of readings to help manage ourselves and patients better.


It does not take a god to make people realize that others do not like being poked in the eye with a stick the same way you do not like being poked in the eye with a stick. Morality comes from the societal system that you live in. This is why morality is slightly different in different parts of the world. Otherwise you might have your god changing it slightly because of copyright laws.


I was raised in the LDS/Mormon faith. My parents raised me to stand up for what is right, and to treat others as I would like to be treated. When I got old enough to think for myself, I held onto how one should treat others and standing up for what is right. I do not believe in organized religion - or the Mormon faith, and highly doubt that there is a "God" or "supreme being". I choose to hold myself to a high standard of ethics and integrity because that is what I have found to be moral. I am able to think and deduce for myself on such matters. I do not need a religion to tell me this. My past experience with religion has mostly exposed me to hypocrisy.


“My family raised me like this?” No no... “I pull ideas from my buttercup” is a better answer... it bothers me so much that some people think just because we don’t believe in a sky daddy, a book that falls from the sky and that a man can split the see with his magic stick doesn’t mean we’re horrible people.

Naw.. my morals come from my intelligence. I’m smart enough to know that lying or stealing will hurt someone else and by nature I don’t hurt others. If they hurt me or someone I love, I’ll make them their life a living “hell” but that’s another story. Smh...

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