How does a atheist choose his morals?

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quickusername10535's picture
Can you explain why you

Can you explain why you oppose state sanctioned executions? Do you believe no one has the right to take someone life or do you just want to give a crueler punishment? Because your idea seems like really cruel. I mean solitary for life? It's like you want him to wish to die. Their deed is indeed evil however I think death is kinder.

David Killens's picture
The prime reason I am opposed

The prime reason I am opposed to state sanctioned executions is that once done, it can never be repaired. Innocent people have been executed. It may seem like cruel punishment to lock them away until they die, but I am taking into consideration the victim.

If a child is raped, the actual physical damage may be negligible. But the psychological trauma may ruin them for life. To assess a punishment based on just their immediate physical condition does an injustice to the victim. It also allows lawyers to plead for a slap on the wrist for a very bad offense. If a child is raped and the physical damage negligible, then it could be argued the perpetrator should only receive a negligible sentence.

Children are the innocents, they need to be protected. And part of that protection is for the law and courts to inform everyone that if you mess with a kid, you will regret it for every remaining moment of your life.

LogicFTW's picture
@thread about capital

@thread about capital punishment

Threat of punishment is a somewhat effective deterrent to prevent people in general to not cause loss to others. And obviously for the threat of punishment to be recognized as credible, punishment need to be carried out on individuals that cause loss to help recognize the punishment threat is credible as well as for others to see the threat of punishment is credible. Also punishment can be steered towards attempting to fix the losses of another, (this works especially well in financial loss one causes to another.)

However threat of punishment fails as a deterrent as soon as a person does something to another that causes loss. Threat of punishment does not work if someone reacts strongly in emotional anger and acts before they consider the consequences, the threat of punishment. Additionally, quite often, one can cause losses to another and escape punishment effects over and over, greatly weakening the "threat" of punishment to that individual.

Jail/prison time serves a couple of major purposes, a punishment obviously, but also as a place to contain "dangerous" individuals from causing loss to others, and possibly to rehabilitate those that cause loss to no longer do so, (we all know how well that goes, with high recidivism rates through the US and the world.)

Capital punishment, skips jail/prison time, (actually it doesn't most of the time,) as many people can sit on death row for decades before they actually (if ever) get the actual death penalty. It cuts out punishment (you cannot punish someone that is dead.) And there is zero chance for rehabilitation, it does very effectively "contain" a dangerous individual. To bad death sentences cost society quite a bit more than life without the possibility of parole so no money savings there.

Ofcourse we must also mention "justice" for those that suffered loss. Ofcourse we all know killing or imprisoning another does not recoup the losses, it becomes more of a: the persons that suffer the losses, get to know the convicted perpetrator also suffers losses, like the loss of freedom or possibly their lives.

Hanging over all of this like a dark cloud is the rampant inequality and inconsistent criminal justice system. Even beyond the simple fact that no judicial/criminal justice system can be 100% accurate, there is racial profiling, and worse of all the economic inequality aspect of it. If you are poor, you cannot afford a private defense, and you cannot afford bail, you are frequently are forced to make plea deals whether you are innocent or not, where if you are rich it is quite the opposite. Worse still, people are increasingly well aware of that fact.

If you are a rich white male adult with no criminal record, unless the evidence is overwhelming, you can very likely get away with little to no punishment at all, and even if you were punished, if you are not deemed a highly dangerous threat to society, punishment may simply be house arrest in your mansion, or possibly sentencing at a "rich persons" jail that is more like a luxury resort then an actual jail. (They have jails where everyone has their own private room and bathroom with shower, TV (with all the premium channels) and private internet connected tablets/computers. (Yes the internet is monitored and social media often times restricted, but people are free to stream netflix all day if they so wished.) With work releases during the day, (a rich person could simply have an office setup in a building where they "claim" to work.)


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algebe's picture
@David Killens: But the

@David Killens: But the psychological trauma may ruin them for life.

Indeed. And much of the psychological harm comes from the fear that the offender will one day be released and may try to harm them again. So keep murderers locked up until their victims stop being dead, and other violent offenders until their victims agree to their release. But as you say, execution brings the risk of mistakes that can't be remedied. It also brings us, as society, down the level of murderers.

I'm always amazed at the cost of incarceration, though. In Western countries it often costs more than putting someone through medical school.

Cognostic's picture
TEXAS has some great laws.

TEXAS has some great laws. I have no problem with it at all. With that said. Anyone caught suppressing evidence in a death penalty case or providing false evidence in a death penalty case should be immediately incarcerated lose any and all professional licensing they have and if it results in the murder of the convicted, be charged with collusion to commit murder. Our science and technology is enough to charge or free a possible perpetrator. We should not be making the mistakes we have made in the past. Some prisoners have been freed due to DNA testing. My thought are simple. The legal system is not allowed to make mistakes. They need to be 100% sure of anyone given a death penalty. They are to be held directly accountable from the police, right on up to the Supreme Court. They are holding the perpetrators accountable and they should be accountable themselves. (This of course is all fantasy.)

While I am in favor of a death penalty and see "Life in Prison" as cruel and unusual punishment. I would be happy today if any inmate with a life sentence was given the option of ending his or her life. There is such a thing as quality of life and spending a lifetime in prison is no one's idea of quality.

Just some of my thoughts.....

Scotland25's picture
My question is are there some

My question is are there some morals that are absolute or are they all just dependent
on who we are and the aspects of society that surrounds us?

xenoview's picture


Prove there are objective morals.
Do your morals come from your god? If your morals come from your god, then they are subjective morals.

David Killens's picture


Different societies can have different morals. Some practiced cannibalism, slavery, abandoning the old to die, abandoning less than optimal newborn to die, public executions, even human sacrifice.

To those societies, it was what was accepted as the norm. Thus we must conclude that "morals" are the aspects of each society. They are taught from birth.

Now we get to the second part, if someone living in a society where slavery was practiced, and they were opposed on moral grounds, were they right or wrong? How do we determine that?

Fortunately, many of us atheists have some guidelines. One is to do no harm, another is to ask yourself if you would like to be on the receiving end of those practices.One I favor is Humanism.

"Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition."


Sheldon's picture
"My question is are there

"My question is are there some morals that are absolute "

In what way "absolute"? The Nazis seemed fairly intransigent about their morals, is that what you mean?

Cognostic's picture
Morals are only absolute when

Morals are only absolute when you understand the nature of the game. The game the Christians play with the bible is to cherry pick moral statements and pretend their god is a loving being. Morality is dictated to them by the bible and the sayings of Jesus, as long as they ignore shit like "I have not come to bring peace but a sword," and "To follow me you must hate your mother, father, sister, brother, ants and uncles." So if you pretend the Bible is moral and that is the rule of the game, then there is absolute morality, "What would Jesus do and ignore all the bad stuff."

This is a very convoluted structure for moral development. Currently trends in secular morality are playing a different game. It's called "Well Being." That which enhances well being is moral. You still have moral dilemmas; however, based on the idea of well being it is generally easier to establish a moral boundary than using an old Iron Age Book of Mythology.

So, Morality is absolute within the boundaries of an ideology. That is how you get different groups of people and different cultures with different moral values and yet those moral values are in fact absolute to them. There is no absolute moral behavior without some sort of boundary or ideology in which to frame that moral behavior.

CyberLN's picture
Cog, thanks for your last

Cog, thanks for your last paragraph. Sums it up beautifully.

quickusername10535's picture
Nice thorough answer thank

Nice thorough answer thank you. And my question isn't ill informed, I never said atheist don't have morals, I just merely stated that they've don't have the option of having" second hand" (being a conformist) values or ideals.


Attach Image/Video?: 

David Killens's picture
My morality is driven by

My morality is driven by doing no harm to others, and money is not part of the equation.

And I do not object to irrational indulgences. They have little to do with morality and it's more about money.

quickusername10535's picture
What ever floats your boat.

What ever floats your boat.

SpecialK's picture
Hello, new, jumping in. And

Hello, new, jumping in. And what a great topic because I find a lot of theists assume atheists have no morals. (?!?!?) I have morals because a) it's inbred in humans as pack animals to do what is right for the pack; b) because I was raised to be a considerate human. Be nice and helpful to others when you can. Don't be mean, or harm anyone if possible - even feelings. Live and let live.

LogicFTW's picture
Welcome to the boards

Welcome to the boards SpecialK!

quickusername10535's picture
Out of all the answers I

Out of all the answers I think you are the one who taught me something new. I've never consider the factor that part of our behavior is from when we are being raised, thank you.

David Killens's picture
I would like to add that for

I would like to add that for myself (and probably other atheists) my morals are not dictated by any fixed rule book, but determined on a case-by-case basis with a lot of judgement calls going on.

TheBlindWatchmaker's picture


If we had not have learnt right from wrong, along with the ability to cohabit with others, then surely we would not be here.
This is in my humble opinion, simply part of a very long and slow process of animal learning.

quickusername10535's picture
So what your stating is, that

So what your stating is, that other people are the criteria to what's right and wrong? I don't think the Muslims have ever learned their religion promotes violence.

In my opinion evolution would be our qualities and learning would be our ability. Separate things.

David Killens's picture


I don't think the Muslims have ever learned their religion promotes violence.

Really? Surely you are being comedic or sarcastic against your own religion.

edit: after being reminded, I humbly apologize. I was VERY wrong.

CyberLN's picture
David, the OPer identifies as

David, the OPer identifies as atheist.

quickusername10535's picture
Am atheist :)

Am atheist :)

TheBlindWatchmaker's picture
I am saying that it is far

I am saying that it is far more likely that groups of primitives in the dawn of humanity would have worked out independently that working as a team benefits one's self better than working alone.

From this you have the beginning of groups/tribes, of which would obviously experiences ups and downs whilst learning what benefits the group, i.e. killing another member reduces the ability to capture potential food sources, to hunt/gather, to build, to rely upon essentially and thus would be prohibited within the group.
Fighting over mating as seen with all animals can be solved by allowing one male to female (with obvious exceptions to the alpha).

I really don't see how its not difficult to comprehend (not saying you do not, by the way), I too often see this debated and the subject not discussed.

Cognostic's picture
@ I don't think the Muslims

@ I don't think the Muslims have ever learned their religion promotes violence.

Like Christians they Cherry Pick their way through the Quaaran and only cite verses that are pleasing to their ears. They do not see the death of the non-believers as significant enough to worry about no matter how horrible that death is or is predicted. Bible believers ignore the exact same garbage in their books.

@ evolution would be our qualities and learning would be our ability.

How would ability increase without an increase in "quality?" The way evolution works is that ability increases with necessity and use. This is adaptation. The more you use something the more the qualities of that something are increased over time.

quickusername10535's picture
Not everyone in society is

Not everyone in society is moral, hence killers and thieves. And to have principles isn't in our genetics. I agree with cognistic that moral are a cognitive development.

LogicFTW's picture
@ Jairayathesage original

@ Jairayathesage original post

How does a atheist choose he's morals?

Well first an atheist checks his first post title for any possible spelling errors/typos ... hah j/k! We all make grammatical mistakes :)

How do I choose my morals? Ya know I am not sure how much I chose them per say. I learned them growing up as a child, my family and peers told me what is right and wrong, and over time I was influenced one way or another, so long ago, over so many tiny instances I do not have clear recollection of when I decided say: beating up someone because I want something because I am bigger and stronger and have the advantage is not something I do, because I decided it is not moral.

I do know my status in my life makes it much easier to follow some societal popular morals, like do not steal, because, well; I do not need to steal to put food on the table for myself or my family. If my family and I was starving, would I be tempted to steal a loaf of bread if I felt I had a decent chance of getting away it? Absolutely.

I know many other morals are also based on that, especially in the heat of anger, If someone makes me angry in the heat of the moment I may want to lash out physically, but my logical brain can override my emotional brain and say "hey" if you punch this person right now you are going to make things worse long term, not better.

In life we are faced with questions like " Should I give money to homeless people?" to " Should I share my things with my siblings?

I think most answers to those kind questions come from a reasoned, logical understanding and decision making. Not from morals. For instance giving money to homeless people. I would not give cash to a homeless person on a street. I do not know the persons situation, and I can reasonably logically assume giving cash to a charity that screens people that really do need help and want to help themselves, and make the best possible use of those dollars far better than I am able to.

Example: you can give a guy on the street panhandling 5 dollars to go buy lunch. Maybe that person goes and buys a healthy meal for him self with those 5 dollars maybe he goes and buys another cheap alcoholic drink to feed his addiction disease. Or I can give 5 dollars to a food bank, that has a deal with a local produce co-op to buy 20 pounds of fresh, unsold produce for 5 dollars. And that food is given out in a cafeteria for the hungry right then and there that feeds 20 people fresh produce.

I think that are morals are shaped by what we choose to value. If we love someone clearly we would be nice to them because they are meaningful to our lives


But for other aspects in life what do you value?

Beyond being with, sharing time with, being nice to those that I love, I value my health and well being, (and of course of those that I love.) I value in no particular order: safety of my self and those I care about, I value progress towards better future for all of us, I value accomplishment for my self and others. You get the idea, I value many things, even the mundane, a warm place to sleep at night.

But is this right? How do you know, your atheist.

Must.. resist.. urge to not mention "your"... argh.. difficult! Sorry, I failed and mentioned it, and I do not even really consider myself someone who cares all that much about grammar and typos, as I do it all the time my self.
Asking if one's own morals is right is rather circular, it sort of like saying how do you know what you consider to be "right"(correct) is right (correct)? But answering that question I do not know. So you just guess, based on what works for you, and what other's have told you. Just like even a devout religious person does not really know for sure if there god is real and morals came from god... It sure seems like a lot of evidence that morals do not come from god, as lots of the rules etc that these god concepts have get broken, all the time, even by the most religious devout followers of a particular god idea.

What's your moral compass and how does it work for you?

Well that is a long answer, and my post is already probably already too long, if anyone is interested I can make a new post with that response.


▮          I am an atheist that always likes a good debate.          ▮
▮   Please include @LogicFTW in responses directed to me.    ▮
▮        Useful list on forum usage. A.R. Member since 2016.      ▮

The_Quieter's picture
It is precisely because I

It is precisely because I have morals that I could never believe in the gods of most major religions.

Scotland25's picture
Could you please explain this

Could you please explain this further as to why you could not believe in the gods of major religions?

xenoview's picture


Do you know that gods and religion are human constructs.


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