Every time I state that there is no morality without an eternal reason for acting in a prescribed way I am attacked by various correspondents. As I have a perfectly logical reason for believing this to be true and, even though I have begged people to give me a logical reason why it should not be true, nobody ever has, I will continue to say that atheism can have no real morality attached to it. However, unreal as morality may or may not be our experiences of life, at least, feel real. When we are depressed we experience a feeling that we would prefer not to experience. The converse is true with happiness. Some physical experiences are enjoyable, whilst some physical experiences are painful. No matter what esoteric ideas we may have about the true nature of experience for all intents and purposes pleasure is good and pain is bad. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable, in fact it is the only sensible course of of action, to maximise our pleasure and minimise our pain. If we do that for others then we can expect that others will do that for us and so we end up with a practical pseudo-morality for a godless world.

In such a godless world all claims that something is better than another thing must be backed up by  utilitarian logic based on the pseudo-morality I proposed above. You cannot, for example, claim that we should not covet our neighbour's ox simply because that what it says in the Bible. However, you could claim that such covetousness is wrong because it may well lead to a loss of happiness for the owner of the ox.

If we follow this code of communal living, the value of specific truths are dependant on the consequences of making them public. Truth, in and of itself, has no value. It is neither good nor bad. Basically, we can believe whatever we like as long as it does not hurt anybody else. Therefore, if a scientist makes the statement that there is absolutely no evidence that a certain homeopathic remedy cures cancer but there is evidence that a certain drug cures cancer, that would be a good truth that should be accepted by all as it will lead cancer sufferers to seek the right treatment and be cured rather than taking the wrong treatment and die prematurely and painfully. But for a scientist to claim that the earth goes round the sun rather than the sun circling the earth may only be a matter of interest. Such a discovery may cause certain people pleasure but there is no reason, in a godless universe, to campaign against contrary views even if they are poppycock.

Religion is tied in with all sorts of rules and regulations, some of which are good (such as charity) and some of which are bad (such as the oppression of certain groups within society) according to my proposed atheistic morality. But, if you strip away all these encumbrances from religion you are left with basic beliefs that affect only the believer. For example, Christians believe in a loving God who created the universe. It would be a perverse thinker who regarded such a belief as a painful thing. In fact, overwhelmingly, scientific investigation has shown that believers in such concepts derive great happiness from their belief. Therefore, to work to disabuse such people of their beliefs would be to remove happiness from them and would be contrary to the pseudo-moral code of atheism. The claim that the non-existence of God is the truth means nothing in a meaningless universe, so why bother?

I am not saying that we should hide the truth or stop looking for truth. Scientific truth should be accesible to everybody. But, to deliberately set out to persuade believers that there is no god is, at best, pointless and, at worst, an evil thing to do if you believe that, even in a godless universe, we should seek to increase happiness and decrease suffering.



  1. I found the beginning of this essay rather confusing and meandering, but the concluding paragraphs are very good. Just needs a bit of editing, IMHO.

  2. Thanks, KJ. I’ve been working on this post for a few weeks to get the logic right (that’s the confusing and meandering bit at the beginning) so I was a bit miffed that nobody seemed to want to say anything about it. You are now at the top of my Christmas list.

  3. I’ve given you reasons, I believe.

    We are all interdependent, therefore it is more than a maudlin platitude that we should treat one another as we wish to be treated. Frankly, Christianity – and all religions – are showing signs of devouring themselves, as well. It’s not a matter of belief or unbelief, but a matter of the fact that human beings are stupid. I have that “eternal reason”, yet I’d gladly wipe the earth clean of the human contaminant, if possible. . . I only lack the ability.

  4. Me, I’m just pondering. I do know some ethical atheists, or are ethics different from morals?

  5. Every atheist I know claims to follow a moral code. What they are unable to tell me is why they follow such a code and where the code comes from. I follow a Christian moral code because it is linked to judgement and eternal life and an agency outside my existence (God) tells me which rules to follow. therefore there is a reason for me to behave in such a way. Atheists will say they follow a moral code for the good of humankind. But without an eternal reward or punishment that is just an arbitrary reason with no real necessity. I mean, what’s it matter if humankind survives if there is no reason for humankind in the first place. So an atheist is, in my opinion, left with only one reason to follow a moral code and that is to avoid pain.

  6. Aha! There’s the key phrase for me – “I mean, what’s it matter if humankind survives if there is no reason for humankind in the first place.” I flunked logic because at university it was linked with something far too like math so I waited to see what others were saying, even though I did understand bits and agreed. But if there is no reason for humankind in the first place, there is no reason for us to “seek to increase happiness and decrease suffering” and humankind being what it is, we need a reason outside ourselves to avoid giving others pain. The conundrum is that even with a reason, we generally love those we love but not anyone else and don’t care if we give pain or not – like to people we don’t like. For reasons passing understanding, even God can’t stop us from thinking I can do anything I want so long as I haven’t physically hurt you.

  7. Ultimately, I agree with you, Lois. But I am willing to allow atheists a provisional morality based on the avoidance of pain. Of course, pain and happiness have no value in a valueless universe but in practice, pain hurts. So, as we are stuck with the experience of pain, even though there is no meaning in our efforts to avoid it we might as well minimise it in order to make are useless lives less uncomfortable whilst we are alive. Of course, an atheist adhering to this provisional morality must never procreate as there is no point to continuing the human race and all birth leads to unavoidable pain and death.

  8. Are morals from god good because they’re from god? How do you filter out what you’re ancestors believed as good from what you now believe as good?

  9. An atheist in a society without social provision for old age might have a reason to reproduce-to avoid or lessen pain in old age. Of course, then humanity is pretty much a very large chain letter or pyramid scheme; you have to push the pain down the generations for it to work.

  10. But the values, and, indeed, the morality of Christianity are just as “made up” as those of atheists. You can talk Bibles, they have science. As for the value of avoidance of pain, you are projecting your own sense of personal worthlessness onto others, hence your position is flawed.

  11. I’m not talking about whether or not God exists here, Mark. I tend not to because I can’t prove anything. Nor am I talking about Christian morality. I am saying that if atheists claim that pain is a bad thing and happiness a good thing then they should not try to dissuade people from believing something that makes them happy, whether it is true or not.