Do Atheists get their Morals from Christianity?


I’m not one of those atheists who completely ignore theology or apologetics, but now, unless I uncover a book containing an argument that is unique, I feel like I’ve put in my time. I’ve read theology, apologetics, and watched many video lectures by the more prominent theologians. I’ve even taken a 300 level philosophy of religion course. (I am aware this doesn’t make me a theologian.) Not to mention, I’ve read the Bible several times.

Recently, a commenter recommended a book. I looked at the book on amazon, and the book’s premise was that even atheists use Christian morals. I have heard this argument before. The premise is usually a variant on the idea that people, here anyways, grow up in a largely Christian society, and this is where atheists get their morals. Thus, an atheist’s moral values originate from Christianity.

While no one can doubt that Christianity has had a large effect on many societies, I think the idea that all atheists nowadays are following and should follow Christian morality is wrong. The fact of the matter is that people know, without the Bible, that murder is wrong. Yes, the Bible points out certain things are wrong that most of agree on, but other pre-Christian ethics have done the same thing. The Code of Hammurabi predates Mosaic law with eerie similarities in some places. (Here’s a wikipedia article on it.) The Code of Hammurabi has laws on slander, theft, and more. Still, I do not claim to follow The Code of Hammurabi or the Bible. Just because some of the prohibitions are good doesn’t mean the entirety of the text should be kept, and just because we can all agree on some things, like do not kill, doesn’t mean we got that rule out of the Bible. I do not think most of us would ever be that barbaric with or without the Bible.

Now, I think most atheists keep their morality simply by contemplation. However, their is a wealth of content on morality from philosophy. Moral philosophy has been going on since the ancient Greeks, and I for one try to look at these systems of beliefs. (Although, my work is not done.) I suggest others consult moral philosophy as well. I have posted before that I think any good moral system should look at sources such as psychology, moral philosophy, sociology, and neuroscience. We can turn morality into a system that works for everybody. I think we should try our best to do this.

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5 Comments

  1. Pingback: Do Atheists get their Morals from Christianity? | Christians Anonymous

  2. atheists cannot get their morals from christianity because christianity contained no moral codes unique to christianity.

    from the beatitudes to most of the jesus sayings mostly centered and the bulk of pauline literature, what we read is stoic philosophy of ethics which precedes christianity by several hundred years and is old enough in fact to have had a significant impact on judaism.

    you can find things like “turn the other cheek” and “do not repay evil for evil” and imperatives for charity and so on, in some cases, word for word, from cicero, seneca, rufus, and marcus aurelius.

    to frame it from hume’s view in “an enquiry concerning the principles of morals”, morality is always common among human beings because of the fact, but unique to circumstances because of those facts. meaning, being the same kind of animal, we will always generally feel and think the same way about things, however, our circumstances account for differences. that implies that no set of moral ideas comes into the world as novel and all moral ideas are an evolution, continuous and contingent to changing human circumstances and problems.

    i simply cannot find ANY moral code in christianity that is sourced in christianity, though you’d think of be keen to as a christian.

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