Question regarding atheists and morality (it's not what you think, please see details)?

Every so often on here, I see an atheist imply that theists who live by moral laws are somehow less "free" than atheists. Most theists can't commit adultery, lie, steal, murder, rape or otherwise sexually assault/molest others, have sex with numerous partners, do an insane amount of drugs (not just talking about smoking a bowl every now and then, which I personally see nothing wrong with), purposely get drunk all the time, and generally treat people like dirt.

I'd say that *most* of you wouldn't want to do most of that stuff either, right? So when it comes right down to it, are you really any more "free" than theists? You guys have morals too, so what's the difference?

And before anyone says that theists are "forced" to follow these rules (because to not follow them means being sent to their religion's equivalent of hell), most of us are not. I personally don't do that stuff because it's either harmful to me, or harmful to others, and if you ask any other theist, most will say the same.

So here's the real question: Are you really more "free"? Really? And if you believe you are, how so? Even without religion, society has its own laws, and there are consequences if you don't follow them. So does society force you to follow its laws and rules, or do you follow them of your own volition, because you can't stand the thought of harming someone else?

BQ: What exactly is "free", and is *anyone* "free"?


In response to another answers, there are many Christians and other religious people who are genuinely kind to homosexuals. I have many gay and bisexual friends; ask them how I treat them.

And come on, are there really any religious slave owners on here?

Update 2:

BTW, I'm not giving any thumbs-down here, so I don't know where these are all coming from. In fact, I'm going through right now and giving you all a thumbs-up for your honesty. Thank you.

18 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    It's a valid argument you make. I personally would never have said that believers are less free than non-believers because of morality. It's a faulty argument simply because of what you assert: there are many points of morality where atheists and believers coincide. There are many points of morality where different incompatible religions coincide, so morality should not be the point under contention unless a person's beliefs lead them to harm other people: say, terrorist attacks or pogroms.

    In my mind, the degree of freedom that a person has is a function how much control they assume over the quality of their lives. Of course, there are people that are born to more advantage than others--it's foolish to think that a toddler dying of starvation in a third world nation is responsible for the quality of their lives--but the choices we make in response to the conditions around us, and the degree to which we are aware of what we can and cannot choose determines how free we are.

  • 1 decade ago

    Honestly, I think people values are shaped by their social culture, of which religion is only one aspect. I don't subscribe to the "atheists are freer" or "Christians are limited" mindset, because everyone can do everything they want to do, regardless of what their religion says. A quick example is divorce. The Christian view of divorce has changed drastically over the last 400 years. Where before it wasn't acceptable, it is now almost commonplace. It's the same religion, but the culture around the religion has changed, and thus, it isn't viewed in the same way. The only real difference is whether we attribute our morals to a society, culture and upbringing, or to a deity. You are absolutely right to say that most of us don't want to do the bad things in your description, and I don't believe that Christians are "forced" to follow the rules of Christianity (not the vast majority of them, anyway). But I will point out that while we both would have pretty much the same morals if we grew up in the same area at the same time, there are some things that I would enjoy that I don't consider wrong (such as premarital sex) that you may also enjoy, but feel guilty about later because you've been conditioned to believe it is wrong. Does that make sense?

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I am an atheist. Also, I have no morals. I live by own set of standards which is what I perceive as acceptable behavior. I don't force my standards on any one else. Do I believe in monogamy and marriage, no. Do I do drugs and get drunk, yes occasionally. I am however a very polite person who very rarely treats anyone like dirt. My standards include treating others as I myself wish to be treated. I don't believe anyone is 100% free, but because I don't have faith in anything ( including humanity) I feel like my mind is free. I don't worry about sin or breaking some moral code, I only have to answer to myself. Yes, I might have to follow "laws", but I never plan on murdering or otherwise harming anyone.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Hi Cricket. When I think of my own "freedom" from religion, I'm not thinking about the morals that most all of us heed naturally. I think of freedom from oppression by the church, religious leaders, and even your own peers within a god-fearing community. I'm thinking freedom from guilt about the myriad of things any given religion can impose on a person such as what foods to eat, tatoos, hair length, tithing, various ritualistic customs, birth control, the clothes you are allowed to wear, jewelry, women's rights, taking part in secular activities like the movies you see, the books you read, recreation... my goodness, the list goes on and on with the stuff different religions prohibit and/or expect from people that have NOTHING to do with actual morality.

    At the end of the day, being free from being made to feel guilty for idiotic things like letting the kids read Harry Potter books, for example, is not what led to the loss of my faith. I simply got to the point where I didn't believe that an almighty being was interacting in our individual lives, or has a "plan" for each one of us, etc. I'll tell ya one thing though, allowing my "spirit", so to speak, to be free... free from all that oppression, free to express myself any way I want, is a feeling I just cannot explain.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I behave as I do because of the person I am. I don't break the law, because I happen to think bad behavior is wrong, not necessarily because of the law itself. I don't expect to be rewarded in Heaven for my behaviour - but yet I try to treat my fellow man with respect and I help people where I can. All of those things a via my own free will. I have freedom of thought which allows me to explore the exciting, newly emerging aspects of how we came to be, and freedom to express myself without the restrains of the concept of 'sin'. I do think, for some of those reasons, I live a freer life than a Theist. We can in the western world compare our freedoms to those who live in strict religious countries. I am not answerable to anybody but myself. From what I understand Theists have to answer to God. Morality is subjective, and I think there are 'immoral' people in all strata's of society, as is there good in all stratum's.

    Source(s): I think therefore I am Atheist.
  • Jess H
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    We're not saying that those "morals" have anything to do with "freedom". Following reasonable morals like not committing adultery, lying, stealing, murder, drug addiction, etc. actually contributes TO freedom, it doesn't hinder it.

    Yes, we don't want to do those things, either. Yes, we consider them immoral. The reason we talk about them when we talk about morality is because theists so often accuse atheists of 'not being constrained by morality', and they accuse us of just "not believing in God because they just want to do whatever they want'. They claim that you NEED religion in order to give you reason to NOT go out and behave immorally. Think about often do you see that EXACT claim made by the religious on here? Look at any of the questions asking atheists why they don't believe in God, and you'll see about 20 theists responses saying, "Because they just want to do whatever they want."

    We are simply disagreeing. Atheists have virtually the same moral view as the majority of theists, (with the exception of certain behaviors that are more religion-specific,such as homosexuality, or not eating meat on Fridays etc.)

    The main difference between OUR view of morals and the religious view of morals, is we simply ATTRIBUTE morality to different things than the religious tend to do. (At least the ones who accuse atheists of "having no reason to be moral.") Those religious types attribute morality to God and religion, we attribute morality to the things that best help humans survive and take care of each other. (By your question, you seem to be the type who seems to understand and agree with that.)

    If you are seeing an atheist talk about morals that hinder "freedom", they most likely are NOT talking about reasonable and obvious morals such as adultery, drug addiction, etc. They're talking about the things that are religion-specific, and not necessary to the betterment of humanity or anyone's lives. (Something like masturbation, for example. That's a big one that you see the strongly religious attack all the time. Birth control is another example.)

  • 1 decade ago

    There are certain aspects of morality that are innate. We see in all cultures as well as other social primates that social cooperation, charity, honesty in social interaction is valued and behaviors that are selfish or that harm others discouraged. Only a neurologically pathological individual is free of these standards.

    But there are other "rules" of behavior that are mere social conventions, that vary from culture to culture or among species of great apes. Religious people often interpret these social conventions as part of morality (homosexuality is immoral or eating pork, etc.) that is equal to such innate prohibitions as lying, stealing and murder, while the atheist is free to see that such mere social conventions have nothing to do with true morality. An atheist is much freer to be a homosexual or enjoy a ham sandwich.

  • 1 decade ago

    I'm not sure I've ever seen this argument . . . I've seen somewhat similar arguments perhaps, but none exactly like this. And I don't see what this would prove or disprove anyway, so I wouldn't support it if I saw an atheist making it.

    Most arguments I see are against certain rules set forth in the Bible. Things about slavery, or stoning people, or premarital sex, or claiming gay people are "abominations" who deserve to die, etc, etc, etc.

    Not an entire refutation of morality because living with no morals is less burdensome or anything . . . but a refutation of certain ridiculous, archaic "morals" or rules that only exist because the Bible was written in the intellectual infancy of our species.

  • 1 decade ago

    Some monotheists in particular like to claim that atheists are atheists as an excuse to act immoral (I know, a stupid idea) and also imply that their own morality is because of their belief in their one god.

    If, as these monotheists claim, the only thing making them moral is their belief, then we do have two problems:

    #1. Belief, as the number of existing ex-monotheists demonstrates, is plastic, and people change, so therefore those monotheists who are only prevented from doing crime by their belief are a danger to us, as they may lose their beliefs.

    #2. Religious people who are not monotheists who are of traditions that teach that morality is a result of empathy, experience, imagination and culture don't seem to have this problem at all, seeming to imply no link between theism and morality.

    Anyways. It's not about freedom. The claim that theists are forced to follow rules is a reaction to monotheists claiming that atheism is about not following rules.

    Frankly: A plague on both their houses!

  • 1 decade ago

    As a rule, I see that comment in reference to the posters who come on here wondering if it's a sin to get a tattoo, or get their ears pierced, or date someone from another religion, or look at a girl in a nice dress, or whatever. It's as if their lives are governed by worrying about which ordinary, minor things might offend a god.

    That's where the lack of freedom comes in.

    EDIT: If I could give you a thumbs up I would. There's too little genuine dialogue here.

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