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Atheist Morality

The purpose of this group is to discuss morality from all points of view: biological, evolutionary, philosophical. Specific moral questions are encouraged: if you have a moral question for us atheists, feel free to post it here.

Location: #philosophy
Members: 98
Latest Activity: Aug 15

Do atheists have morals?

We atheists are pretty tired of hearing that without religion, there would be no morality. It is offensive to us atheists, since this implies we cannot possibly be moral, or if we are in fact, moral, it is because we were raised in a culture in which morality was initially acquired, and still perpetuated, by religion.
While it is indeed possible that some people may need religion in order to be moral, this is a scary thought: their morality has not been reasoned or felt in their gut, it was "ordered" from above.
Human beings have had moral laws and codes for thousands and thousands of years before religion was ever invented, at least in an organized form.  Human beings around the globe, from many religious backgrounds, have pretty much the same basic set of rules, starting with the Golden Rule. Why? Because our moral sense comes from the evolution of our brains and the need to live as a social species, avoiding conflict and increasing cooperation.  Our moral sense is based on our emotions: it feels good to help others, and it feels bad to harm others.
The scientific study of human nature has naturally lead to the scientific study of human morality. A good start if you're new to this fascinating and important subject is The New Science of Morality, from Edge.org.
Useful links or articles:
The Moral Instinct- great long article in the NYT by Steven Pinker
The communication of emotions and the possibility of empathy in animals, by Stephanie Preston and Frans de Waal (book chapter)
The Normative Insignificance of Neuroscience- Scholarly article by Harvard philosopher Selim Berker (hat tip to Julia Galef) who argues that we can never derive normative implications from neural facts about how we reach moral decisions. Opposite point of view to Peter Singer and Joshua Greene. Not sure I agree completely but it's good to challenge ourselves with opposing views in any field.
Moral psychology: The depths of disgust
Is there wisdom to be found in repugnance? Or is disgust 'the nastiest of all emotions', offering nothing but support to prejudice? Dan Jones looks at the repellent side of human nature.

Recent evidence suggests that moral judgment is more a matter of emotion and affective intuition than deliberate reasoning.  Psychology and cognitive neuroscience studies point to the importance of affect, although reasoning can play a restricted but significant role in moral judgment. A preliminary account of the functional neuroanatomy of moral judgment is presented, according to which many brain areas make important contributions to moral judgment although none is devoted specifically to it.
We will be adding recurrent threads that people keep adding new material to, for reference or because the subject is a tidbit that does not warrant its own separate discussion:
The Moral Treasure Chest
Moral Dilemmas- this is a thread for moral dilemmas (a part of applied ethics), feel free to post your favorite moral dilemma, real of made up, and what you would do and why (coming up soon).
Online tests: These are academic tests designed to probe our moral sense, moral cognition, and what drives our moral decisions and judgments. They are fun, they will tell you a lot about yourself, and you'll be helping researchers add to their current data.
YourMorals.org (Jonathan Haidt's group and collaborators).
The Moral Sense Test (Joshua Greene-Harvard University)

Discussion Forum

"We have failed Leah Lebresco"

Started by Don. Last reply by Onyango Makagutu Nov 4, 2013. 54 Replies

Erstwhile atheist blogger Leah Lebresco is a profound and engaging thinker whose writing I had been following for a short while.  She and my daughter were college classmates, graduating last May, and I used to enjoy her opinion pieces in the Yale…Continue


Started by Jacqueline Little. Last reply by Lester Unega Waya Oct 21, 2013. 66 Replies

I'm an Atheist. I have been for a while now. But What I don't Quite understand is why Are So many people against it?Continue

What Isn’t for Sale?

Started by A Former Member. Last reply by Onyango Makagutu Apr 30, 2013. 3 Replies

What Isn’t for Sale?Market thinking so permeates our lives that we barely notice it anymore. A leading philosopher sums up the hidden costs of a price-tag society.THERE ARE SOME THINGS money can’t buy—but these days, not many. Almost everything is…Continue

Tags: ethics, free-market capitalism, morals, economy, capitalism

The 'Truth' About Why We Lie, Cheat And Steal

Started by A Former Member Apr 21, 2013. 0 Replies

Chances are, you're a liar. Maybe not a big liar — but a liar nonetheless. That's the finding of Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. He's run experiments with some 30,000 people and found that very few…Continue

Tags: ethics, morality, psychology, Ariely, honesty

The empathy machine

Started by A Former Member Apr 20, 2013. 0 Replies

The empathy machine Sherlock was right – new research shows that seeing through another's eyes takes a detached mind not just a warm heartWhat’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name Sherlock Holmes? It might be a deerstalker, a pipe…Continue

Tags: autism, morality, feeling, Sherlock Holmes, creativity

The Moral Treasure Chest

Started by Adriana. Last reply by A Former Member Apr 9, 2013. 87 Replies

This discussion is for all the great links, pdfs, videos, or general…Continue

Tags: reports, ethics, studies, videos, philosophy

Simon Blackburn and Moral Quasi-Realism

Started by Adriana. Last reply by Adriana Apr 7, 2013. 5 Replies

I've been thinking hard about how I would describe my moral position, from a philosophical point of view. Since I do not agree with moral relativism or with moral absolutism (perhaps better called "moral realism"), I think I found a position that…Continue

Tags: philosophy, humanism, moral, quasi-realism, Simon Blackburn

How mood influences moral decisions

Started by Adriana. Last reply by Neal Mar 12, 2013. 2 Replies

Here's a great blog post in Scientific American: "How Your Moral Decisions are Shaped by a Bad Mood"…Continue

Tags: cognition, emotions, decisions, psychology, morality

Comment Wall


You need to be a member of Atheist Morality to add comments!

Comment by Mrs.B on August 15, 2016 at 4:58pm

I have a conscience that will strongly boot me in the butt, too.

Comment by Stephen on August 15, 2016 at 4:36pm

They ask what would stop us from killing and raping without religion. The same thing that stops us now. I don't want to kill and rape and I've not believed in god for years.

Comment by Charles Marshall on August 15, 2016 at 4:19pm

We forge our moralities directly from our conscience which is shaped from our life experiences. Sadly nowadays that word, conscience, evokes more something with the toughness of a sponge rather than that of the bark of trees ...

Comment by Mrs.B on May 29, 2016 at 6:23pm

Yeah, well if I had to cherry pick like that, I'd be making pie! Hahahaha......

Comment by Stephen on May 29, 2016 at 6:19pm

This is what the Bible bashers cant understand, they have to cherry pick there commandments in order to live a modern life.

Comment by Mrs.B on May 29, 2016 at 5:41pm

Comment by Chris on April 27, 2016 at 8:52am

For What it's Worth.


ALBANY, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Wenona and Travis Rossiter, convicted of manslaughter in the death of their 12-year-old daughter, were each sentenced to 10 years in prison Friday.

Syble Rossiter died in February 2013 of a treatable form of diabetes. Her parents opted to use prayer instead of medicine for the girl, and were convicted in the case in November.

The Rossiters are members of the Church of the First Born, whose members believe traditional medical treatment is sinful.

The courtroom was full of friends and family of the Rossiters, and it was silent as the judge presided over their sentencing.

Before the judge handed down his sentence, both parents spoke.

A tearful, emotional Wenona Rossiter said, “There are no words to the pain a parent feels when she loses a child. … There is not a day that goes by that I wish I could go back, I would’ve known I could change something.”

She also said, “When you lose a child, you lose the biggest part of yourself.”

Travis Rossiter said his daughter “was one of the best things in my life.”

The judge merged the sentences for first- and second-degree manslaughter into one, handing down 10 years for each parent.

Syble Rossiter died in 2013. She was 12. (KOIN 6 News, file)Syble Rossiter died in 2013. She was 12. (KOIN 6 News, file)

After they were sentenced, her attorney Mark Heslinga told KOIN 6 News, “The trial was very difficult for her and I wasn’t surprised to see her get emotional.”

Three years ago, Oregon changed its law to exclude spiritual treatment as a defense against all homicide and manslaughter charges. That means parents like the Rossiters are now subject to mandatory sentencing under Measure 11.

Judge Murphy imposed the 10-year sentences despite their defense attorneys efforts to exclude applying the stricter sentencing guidelines.

“It treats everybody the same despite the fact everybody is not the same, that somebody who intentionally tortures a child is going to be treated the same as a mother who is a good mother in all respects, but because of religious beliefs hasn’t provided medical care for the child,” Heslinga said.

Two other childrens of the Rossiters are being remanded to guardianship. They will not be allowed to be with friends and family since that would put them in the same church – and possibly dangerous situation – as Syble.

In May, Judge Daniel Murphy ruled that if their beliefs compelled their actions, that’s a form of motive evidence.

The trial lasted about a week before the jury deliberated for four hours before convicting the Rossiters.

Comment by Stephen on April 27, 2016 at 5:37am
I agree people must always be held to account for their actions especially parents who neglect the welfare of the children
Comment by Mrs.B on April 27, 2016 at 3:50am

Granted, but naive doesn't cut it here.

Any woman who has had kids knows how fast the youngest can become ill, & treating a baby for the 'flu' that doesn't show signs of improvement within a day or two, NEEDS to be taken to emergency,  or at the very least, seen by a doctor right away.

Comment by Stephen on April 26, 2016 at 9:27pm

Unlike some of the religious nuts who withhold treatment this couple seems naïve  rather than evil. And in the end they have lost there son, so they've been punished enough.


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