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What Happens Next Time?

Surprises generally only work ONCE, especially if they are UNPLEASANT surprises or worse, hostile,…See More
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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: 102
Latest Activity: Sep 10, 2022

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
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. (Jonathan Haidt's group and collaborators).
The Moral Sense Test (Joshua Greene-Harvard University)

Discussion Forum


Started by Jacqueline Little. Last reply by Davy Sep 10, 2022. 75 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

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

Started by A Former Member. Last reply by Doone Dec 27, 2018. 2 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

What Isn’t for Sale?

Started by A Former Member. Last reply by Joey Daniel Smith Dec 27, 2018. 4 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 Moral Treasure Chest

Started by Adriana. Last reply by Joey Daniel Smith Dec 23, 2018. 88 Replies

This discussion is for all the great links, pdfs, videos, or general bits of information such as studies, reports, news, about moral…Continue

Tags: reports, ethics, studies, videos, philosophy

"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

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

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

Comment Wall

Nice Comment

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

Comment was by Onyango M on June 6, 2022 at 3:14am

But I agree with you that atheist morality is a misnomer. but i am sympathetic to the people who use it in contradistinction to say Christian morality which is another strange way of seeing the world.

Comment was by Onyango M on June 6, 2022 at 3:11am

Andy why do you say no discussion is allowed and your comment still stands? Wouldn't that be a sign that discussion is allowed. Or is it that discussion is allowed only when comments are nested?

Comment was by Andy Stout on June 5, 2022 at 11:35am

What a lie—> "The purpose of this group is to discuss morality from all points of view..."

Not it's not. Discussion is not permitted. No comments are allowed, therefore no discussion is allowed. Here, we are only permitted to express our point of view. Period. No one can "discuss" a damn thing.

Comment was by Stephen Brodie on May 29, 2022 at 10:20pm

I became a proper Atheist in my teens and I'm now in my mid-60s I can quite honestly say that my morals haven't changed that much except to say as a socialist I now care more for justice and equality, all those Good things right-wing Christian's don't believe in.

Comment was by Andy Stout on May 29, 2022 at 5:14pm

"Atheist morality"???

I am so tired of hearing this nonsensical phrase.

That's like saying "atheist politics" or "atheist values" or "atheist music"....

Can we all please understand that atheism is NOTHING but non-belief or disbelief in a supernatural magic genie. It's the same thing as not believing in Santa Claus or a tooth fairy. Right? So, is there such a thing as a moral system for non-believers in Santa Claus or a tooth fairy? Of course not. There couldn't be—it makes no possible sense.

There are of course numerous philosophical systems of morality. After all, that is exactly WHAT morality is: Morality is a philosophical system. But it has NOTHING to do with a person's belief or disbelief in the existence of ANYTHING.

Comment was by Stephen Brodie on May 28, 2022 at 2:19am

I know this canto can be read differently but I've always seen it as an attack on the unfeeling nature of the so-called loving god of the bronze age desert dwellers.

See the source image

Comment was by Markie Isabella Strange on May 27, 2022 at 2:47pm

The Multi/Uni-verse doesn't have objective morality, in the wild murder is okay and normal and common, rape happens and no one is screaming about female tiger rights, and cannibalism is natural. Dolphins are bullies, but we don't scold them. No one is there to call a tiger or an elephant out for "bad" behavior. No one to create laws to prevent suffering in the cosmos. When particles collide and explode, no one is there to tell it that is bad behavior. When cells eat other cells we don't pass judgment on it.

However objective morality does exist within a context. Outside of context, anything goes and it's okay, but within a subjective boundary set by a group of people, we have a right way to do something and a wrong way of doing something.

Say our collective goal is to co-exist as peacefully as possible, to be as happy and content as possible, and to thrive as best as circumstance will allow. Then we have grounds to make arguments about how best to do this. There are better ways to create homes than others and so regulations and guide rules on how a home can be built are logical. Murder being illegal is logical given people want to live without fear of being killed. Rape being illegal is logical because no one wants to be raped (liking it rough or being into dark taboo role play isn't rape). There are times when the answer is less obvious than that and that's where intelligent debate is important. 

Comment was by Chris on April 13, 2019 at 12:33pm

After Words with Vicky Ward

Investigative reporter Vicky Ward reported on the careers of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump and their roles in the Trump administration. She’s interviewed by former New York Observer Editor in Chief Elizabeth Spiers.

It starts to get interestining after around 33 minutes into the interview.

Comment was by Mrs.B on March 19, 2018 at 8:23pm



Comment was by Doone on November 6, 2016 at 9:55pm

The mathematics of kindness

Hamilton's rule

As some of the above examples indicate, one particular situation in which altruistic behaviour is often observed is when it involves close family members, or kin. A mother bear cares for and protects her own cubs (but not others!), because they are closely related to her. In a bee colony, all worker bees are sisters born from the same mother (the queen bee). And even humans are generally more likely to perform "selfless acts of kindness" towards closely related family members than to complete strangers (although not always).


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