What do you say when a theist says morality isn't real without god?

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godslayer's picture
What do you say when a theist says morality isn't real without god?

9/10 whenever I get pulled into a discussion/debate with theists over the existence of god, they bring up the concept of morality and how it doesn't exist without a grand sky wizard. I have a few responses, such as evolution and society teaching our children morals as they grow up, but they just spew scripture at me. What new things would you recommend I respond with? Many thanks and much love.

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LostLocke's picture
Ask them, "If you found out

Ask them, "If you found out right now without any doubt that there was no god, would you now go around stealing, raping, killing, etc?"

Tin-Man's picture
Greetings, Mr. DeVito! Huge

Greetings, Mr. DeVito! Huge fan. Although, I do confess I sometimes had trouble telling you and Arnold apart during the movie "Twins". (Please forgive me.)
To be honest, I am fairly new to the atheist world, and especially this site. Has proven to be a blast so far, though. Hard to stay away. Anyway, although I have practically no experience in confronting and debating believers in person, I have heard many-many arguments relating to morality on multiple other sites. (You may be familiar with Matt Dillahunty on The Atheist Experience. He is a favorite of mine.) With that in mind, one of the methods I have heard used that seems fairly effective is the whole Slavery Debate. If a theist starts throwing scripture at you, then throw scripture right back at them and ask them how moral it is to them as an individual. Time and time again I have heard devout believers stutter, stammer, and outright AVOID answering questions when directly confronted with some of the many "questionable" scriptures of the bible. Many will even openly admit they PERSONALLY BELIEVE those things are morally wrong, but then still try to defend them anyway. In doing so, they pretty much prove that the morals of the bible are basically crap, and that the morals of man over the centuries has prevailed. The cast on the Atheist Experience are able to explain things far better than I can, but basically that's the general idea. Fight fire with fire, so to speak.

Tin-Man's picture
One of my favorite analogies

One of my favorite analogies is the Mafia Extortion example. You are the owner of a small business just trying to make an honest living. One day a guy walks in and tells you, "Hey, this is a really nice place you have here. Would be a shame if anything bad were to happen to it. But if you pay me a little fee every month, I will make sure your business isn't bothered in any way. Matter of fact, I will even go as far as helping your business be even better." So far, sounds almost like a good deal, right? But then the guy goes on to say, "However, it you DON'T pay me a fee every month.... wellllll..... ya know, bad things happen to good people sometimes. And I know plenty of people who can make bad things happen to your business. But, hey, I really care about you and your well-being, so how about you just go ahead and pay that fee and all will be well."
Doesn't really take a genius to see that is extortion and very much a crime. We call people who do that criminals. But how is that any different from what God does? Yet millions of people worship and praise him for it. WTF?

mykcob4's picture
@ Dan

@ Dan
Unfortunately for you since you are so new you haven't been privileged to the issue being exhaustingly covered. Seems that every theist that comes here starts a topic about morality and we have to explain actually teach them that morality comes from society.
The truth is that if you need a god to be moral you aren't moral at all.
You might look at past threads to see what I mean. Glad you have joined. No disrespect, I just can't bring myself to repeating everything I have written about morality.

Tin-Man's picture
"If you need a god to be

"If you need a god to be moral, then you are not moral at all." I like it. Gotta remember that one.
As I have stated in other posts, it is difficult for me to understand why people can't be good and morally decent simply for the sake it is the right thing to do in a civilized society. Why do they always feel the need to give moral credit to some imaginary entity that clearly demonstrates highly questionable moral standards in his own book that was supposedly inspired by him. Very perplexing, to say the least.

godslayer's picture
Thanks to LostLocke, Tin-Man,

Thanks to LostLocke, Tin-Man, and mykcob4. Hopefully, they'll leave me alone after these.

Burn Your Bible's picture
They will never leave you

They will never leave you alone... they will just make up another excuse

algebe's picture
Hello Dan.

Hello Dan.

Tell your theist friends to take a holiday in godless, immoral Japan and try a little experiment. Drop a wallet containing some money and the address of their hotel on a bench in a busy Tokyo railway station. Then go back a couple of hours later. The wallet will either still be on the bench or waiting for them at their hotel, with the money untouched. The Japanese are usually very moral about money. (Sex is another story.)

Now try the same experiment in a city of highly moral god-fearing people, say New York, Boston, or London. Maybe say a little prayer to Saint Anthony first.

Morality is a personal, social, and cultural thing. I don't think it makes much sense to base a moral system on a god who forgives everything and anything as long as you confess.

Tin-Man's picture
Exactly, Algebe. How can God

Exactly, Algebe. How can God be the ultimate Judge/Punisher AND the ultimate Forgiver at the same time? It is a bit of a conflict of interests, is it not? Contradicting, at best. Still waiting on somebody to explain that one. For instance, a man goes out and rapes and kills several women and has a criminal history that would fill a phone book. Has basically done zero good for society his entire life. Naturally, most people would say that individual should "burn in hell" for all the atrocities he has committed. I happen to agree that somabitch should be punished to the max. But - hey! - not to worry, because God has got this handled, right? Uh, well, not necessarily. As it turns out according to the bible, all that dude has to do is repent and ask for forgiveness before dying, and - ZING! - he has a first class ticket straight to heaven. Meanwhile, one of his female victims was maybe a loving, caring mother who was never known to say a bad word to anybody. She may have even volunteered regularly at homeless shelters helping those in dire need, and she was always willing to help friends and family with any problems they might have had. Unfortunately, she was an atheist. Therefore, God loves her sooooo much that he sends her to hell to be tortured forever for simply not believing in him. Ummm... if that is what Christianity considers to be morally just, then I do believe I'll be just fine on my own. Besides, even if a god like that really did exist, I would never worship or bow down to it anyway, regardless of what threats it might make.

David_Holloway's picture
Well the closest I have come

Well the closest I have come to this arguement was when I talking to an Irish Cathlic woman. It came in conversation that I was an Atheist.

This is conversations that follows:

Her: It's a terrible gamble to take with you immortal soul.

Me: I'm a good person. I give to charity and try to do a good deed everyday. Are you telling me that I'm gonna burn for eternity, just because I don't believe in Jesus Christ?

Her: Well you can't take glory from it unless you're doing it in the name of God.

Me: I don't do it out for the glory, fear from hell or as a bargaining chip into heaven. I do it because ut the right thing to do.

Her: I'll prayer for you.

Me: If you feel you need to.

My point is, needing God for mortality is total bollocks! It far more noble and honourable to do good deeds for the sake of doing good deeds.

Tin-Man's picture
Preach it, Ag! Preach it!

Preach it, Ag! Preach it!
If I am being good and doing good things ONLY for the reason I will get a reward for it, then that doesn't really make me a very good person, does it?

Pitar's picture
You really can't say anything

You really can't say anything a theist won't rebuke. Channeling the bible is their way of it and the ardent theist holds that the bible is the last word in truth. That kind of stupidity cannot be defeated or otherwise exposed. So, you go about your business and leave it alone. As an atheist it doesn't matter who believes what because you don't, nor do you care who does. That alone shows a morality of charity that no theist can deny.

Morality must be demonstrated. No theists can actually do that and remain true to the teachings of the bible when it contains immoral deeds. But, I suppose that's the bit where theists explain to atheists that god's ways are not always revealed. Indeed.

arakish's picture
I recently did some research

I recently did some research using QGIS software and the TIGER data from the Census Bureau to put a Chaplain in his place when it comes to morality. This neighbor kept bugging me...

Blue = highly educated, mostly atheistic or agnostic.
Red = highly religious, especially Christian fundamentalism.

This is in the United States.

= Of the 25 states with the lowest rates of crime, 18 are blue, 7 are red (a 2.5:1 ratio).
= Of the 25 states with the highest rates of crime, 19 are red, 6 are blue (a 3:1 ratio).
= Of the 25 most dangerous cities, 22 are in red states, 3 are in blue states (a 7:1 ratio).
= The 3 of the 5 most dangerous cities are in the red state of Texas.
= The 12 states with the highest rates of burglary, all 12 are red.
= 24 of the 29 states with the highest rates of theft are red (a 5:1 ratio).
= Of the 22 states with the highest rates of murder, 19 are red (a 6:1 ratio).
= 93% of convicted child molesters identify themselves as Christian.
= 74% of all inmates identify themselves as believers.
= 25% of all inmates identify themselves as "don't know."
= ONLY 0.2% of inmates identify themselves as Atheist.

If religion is so good for us, then why does it spawn so much more violent crime?

I also asked him: If the love of money is the root of all evil, then why do churches demand so much of it?

And then I hit him with this meme I saw somewhere: If God is cool with rape, incest, mass murder, sexism, slavery, ethnic cleansing, and genital mutilation, then why do we need a Satan?

He has not bothered me for the last three months. But I still fear he will try to "bring a lost sheep back into the fold" too soon.


Cognostic's picture
Just ask them if they eat

Just ask them if they eat shrimp, wear blended cottons, worry about the things they put into their mouths, keep slaves, kill their disobedient children, avoid women who are on their periods or hate their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers so that they could follow Jesus? Why is it they have plans for their lives when clearly Jesus instructs them not to think of tomorrow? It should become obvious that the average Christian uses their morality to cherry pick their way through the Bible. Morality does not come from their god or the bible it is what they bring to their god and the bible. The bible itself proves that both Jesus and the God of the old testament (Who are one being) are immoral.

Morality is an emergent property of human interaction, That is why we no longer follow the immoral teachings of the Bible.

Sheldon's picture
"What do you say when a

"What do you say when a theist says morality isn't real without god?"

Ask them how they know their deity is moral, they'll waffle, huff & puff, but eventually they'll assert it as a subjective opinion. Once they do that you can point that adhering doggedly to archaic religious texts doesn't make their claims to moral ascendancy any less relative or subjective as they are claiming secular morals are.

Then ask them if they think rape is wrong, or murder, or whether they just refrain from these because they are 'TOLD' to do so. If it is the latter then they're not being moral at all and are mere automatons, if it is the former then they must have reasoned this themselves and therefore morality must necessarily be independent of religious belief.

David_Holloway's picture
The fact is there is no such

The fact is there is no such thing as "absolute morality" not even with the Bible. There are so many horrud things advocated in the Bible as well as many good things that anyone can justify anything they want to using the Bible. Morality is always has been and always will be subjective. Stop trying to hijack morality, because your claim that morals can only come from God is bollocks!

Tin-Man's picture
My wife made a fantastic

My wife made a fantastic point this morning. (She does battle on a different Theist/Atheist debate forum on FaceBook.) She said she noticed that everybody seems to get so caught up in the moral arguments that they totally forget about (Or, in the case of most theists, they intentionally IGNORE) the core and foundation that is THE reason for all the debates in the first place. That would be the BIBLE itself. Supposedly, the bible is THE PEFECT WORD of God and was so inspired by God to be his PERFECT guideline for all of humanity throughout time. Right? With that in mind, one would expect the writings in such a book/guideline to be crystal clear In their meaning and instruction, totally consistent without ANY contradicting information, and with absolutely ZERO room for argument or the need for interpretation. Furthermore, it would have been written in EVERY SINGLE LANGUAGE without ANY translation errors, thereby allowing every single human on the planet to be in perfect harmony in the beliefs God wanted. After all, it was inspired to be written by an ALL-KNOWING and PERFECT being, right? Yet it does not take a genius to see this is NOT the case. Not even by a long shot. Take all the arguments about morals and scientific study and toss them aside completely. They are not relevant at the moment. Right now, focus strictly on the writing, wording, messages, and context of the bible itself. Nothing more. There are SO many contradictions and inconsistencies from one book to the other that even some theists will grudgingly admit they do not make sense. Moreover, aside from a few (VERY few) direct and unambiguous instructions/commands, a majority of the bible is filled with a variety of vague and indistinct sayings and parables that leave themselves open to being interpreted in almost any way the reader chooses. I mean - C'MON!!! - if this was not true, then how the hell do you explain all the thousands of different denominations that have developed from the "teachings" of the exact same PERFECT BOOK? As my wife said, "It seems to me that after you show one or more errors in something that is suppose to be "perfect", then that should make everything else about it suspect at the very least. In which case, why believe ANYTHING about it at that point?"
So while discussions about morals and ethics are all fine and well, it too often is used as an evasive method by theists to avoid having to confront the blatantly obvious problems with the book and god on which they base their faith. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy a good discussion about morals and ethics, as it is such a fascinating topic to me. Quite honestly, though, I believe those chats would be even more entertaining and fruitful if we could just leave God and the Bible out of them altogether. Just a thought...

David_Holloway's picture
This what I have been saying

This what I have been saying all along, although you wife articulated so much better than I did. Funnels of to her. Yes, why would you think the Bible is perfectly written when there are sooooooooo many contradictions in it?

Tin-Man's picture
Thanks, Agnos. She will be

Thanks, Agnos. She will be pleased to hear that. She is a very insightful woman. (Meaning I can't get away with ANYTHING around here. lol)

David_Holloway's picture
Isn't that the way with women

Isn't that the way with women. So much more insightful than us. I found that it best not to try and outsmart them, just love them.

Cognostic's picture
How did you decide that? If

How did you decide that? If god gave you morality, you don't have free will. If you decided god was moral you have only exercised your free will. Obviously God has nothing at all to do with your moral choices.

Do you wear blended fabric shirts? Do you eat shrimp? Would you kill a child that talked back to you? Would you own a slave? Would you kill someone who tried to convert you to another faith? Do you hate your own family members in favor of Jesus? Do you have thoughts of tomorrow, are you making plans?

The simple fact of the matter is that you are more moral than your bible. You pick and choose those parts of the bible that you will follow. You use your morality to evaluate the book you profess to get your morality from.

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