It doesn't force you to be moral

Atheism doesn’t force a person to be moral, it merely allows for it. And better than any religion.

Atheism comes with no specific set of beliefs, no system of thought. In common usage it is simply a rejection of all gods. This is compatible with a bunch of philosophies, both good and bad. Importantly, however, it is compatible with good intentions.

In the spirit of Kant, atheism allows perfectly for good will. That is, what a person intends is the important element in deciding the goodness or badness of an action, behavior, thought, etc. It’s the idea behind the phrase “It’s the thought that counts”. Give a person a fantastic birthday present because you want to impress everyone with your wealth and the intention is to self-aggrandize. Most people, myself included, regard that as a generally bad intention. But regardless of what one thinks of self-aggrandation, the point should be clear: intention matters. A low-quality gift given after much consideration to the happiness of the recipient is a much better gift, at least philosophically, than the fantastic present.

Atheism jives with good will. Any action with a good intention is ultimately good because consideration has been given to others; people are considered above all else. Religion is evil in this regard (and most regards, for that matter).

Religion teaches that good intentions should stem from a desire to please some magical man in the sky. This is not good intention; it is selfishness. It is a desire to please some god in order to gain access to a reward at the end of The Yellow Brick Road (or at least a desire to avoid punishment). That is action out of self-concern, not for the sake of being a good person. Religion does not allow for purely good intentions except when the actor forgets his particular god(s).

5 Responses

  1. How is looking to please your Creator an act of selfishness? If you did something that pleased your father would you call that selfishness?

    Christian salvation is not based on anything we can do anyway. It is based upon our faith and the grace of God.

    Why do you even care in the first place? Why, if “Atheism doesn’t force a person to be moral, it merely allows for it” do you find yourself so compelled to appear moral?

  2. How is looking to please your Creator an act of selfishness? If you did something that pleased your father would you call that selfishness?

    Aside from the fact that my father actually exists, it would be selfish of me to dictate my behavior toward all people based upon what would make my father happy, assuming I’m doing it because I value him so far above all else. This places my father in a position that is so far above all others in my day-to-day actions as to be plainly inappropriate. Sometimes he isn’t to be considered within my actions. The same goes for everyone. Putting forth our own desires to make a single person happy at the expense of all others is radically selfish.

    Why do you even care in the first place? Why, if “Atheism doesn’t force a person to be moral, it merely allows for it” do you find yourself so compelled to appear moral?

    It’s almost a non-sequitor you have there.

    First, what’s the connection you’re trying to draw? It doesn’t follow that because atheism allows for morality better than religion that I shouldn’t find myself compelled to appear moral, as you seem to be implying.

    Second, I’m not claiming the moral high ground wherever it may lie, but I’m do not simply try to “appear” moral.

  3. Aside from the fact that my father actually exists

    It would help if you were to respond to my question in a consistent fashion. You assume that God does not exist, then answer the question as it stands. What would be wrong with doing something that pleases your father? How would that make you selfish?

    It’s almost a non-sequitor you have there.

    Good thing it’s not then, eh? :)

    First, what’s the connection you’re trying to draw? It doesn’t follow that because atheism allows for morality better than religion that I shouldn’t find myself compelled to appear moral, as you seem to be implying.

    Connection? You claim that morality has some importance. Why is that? You claim atheism “allows for” morality. So what? Presumably it allows for immorality just as easily. Why do you choose morality over immorality?

  4. It would help if you were to respond to my question in a consistent fashion. You assume that God does not exist, then answer the question as it stands. What would be wrong with doing something that pleases your father? How would that make you selfish?

    Oh, right. My bad. Perhaps I should have actually responded to your question. Maybe something like this would have done?

    …it would be selfish of me to dictate my behavior toward all people based upon what would make my father happy, assuming I’m doing it because I value him so far above all else. This places my father in a position that is so far above all others in my day-to-day actions as to be plainly inappropriate. Sometimes he isn’t to be considered within my actions. The same goes for everyone. Putting forth our own desires to make a single person happy at the expense of all others is radically selfish.

    Connection? You claim that morality has some importance. Why is that? You claim atheism “allows for” morality. So what? Presumably it allows for immorality just as easily. Why do you choose morality over immorality?

    My assumption is that people want to fit a general, Western definition of good – be kind to people, be reasonable, don’t harm others…basic things.

    Atheism does allow for immorality, but that misses my point. It allows for morality better than religion does because the whole concept behind the major religions (and most minor ones) undermines the importance of intention.

  5. Do you “value your father far above all else”?

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