12 0

Morality without God

Question is from a deeply Christian relative of mine on Facebook several months ago, I'm wondering how y'all respond:
"To every agnostic/atheist out there, how do you know what's right and wrong without God? For instance, how is murder wrong when a person is just another animal?"

By AaronW3
Actions Follow Post Like

Enjoy being online again!

Welcome to the community of good people who base their values on evidence and appreciate civil discourse - the social network you will enjoy.

Create your free account


Feel free to reply to any comment by clicking the "Reply" button.


We all know what's right and wrong without gods. Some of us just don't know it.

My question would be how can you consider yourself a good person, if you need to be promised an eternal reward or threatened with eternal punishment to force yourself to be a decent human being?

JimG Level 8 Mar 23, 2019

Simple: You are the same person before and after you became agnostic or atheist. If you had a conscience before, you have the same one after.

Storm1752 Level 6 Mar 19, 2019

Of course, murder is a specific form of killing: human upon human, premeditated and unauthorised. It's a lesser crime to kill another human accidentally or in the heat of the moment. It's perfectly okay (or at least morally justifiable) for one human to kill another on a battlefield, provided that their government has instructed them to do so.

How do I know it's wrong to murder? Well other than it just clearly being a terrible thing to do, there's the small matter of getting locked up for a long time or even executed myself, if I'm found guilty of doing it. While no system is perfect, law enforcement does a much better job of policing morality than religion ever has. For proof, look at which one prosecutes child sexual abuse, and which one just tries to sweep it under the carpet.

Religion might once have been essential for setting a functional morality, especially in a world with no CCTV and forensic evidence, where it was easier to go undetected as a criminal. But secular morality covers all of the bases these days, thanks very much. Religion just seems to excuse the nonsense that still goes on in some more backward nations, such as criminalising homosexuality or sex outside of marriage. There seems to be no shortage of people willing to commit crimes, in spite of the fact that many supposedly believe God is watching them and might punish them in the longer term. Perhaps the short term rewards are worth going to hell for. Who knows?

NicoleCadmium Level 7 Mar 19, 2019

To think that morality comes from gods is wrong. Morality is an education process that starts with fear and ends in empathy with or without fear. Morality comes from the structure of the society you live in and is therefore ever changing. Some people are afraid that if they kill, god will punish them. Most modern people feel that if they kill (and get caught) society will punish them. If any gods are "writing on your heart" it is because you believed in them in the first place.

DenoPenno Level 8 Mar 16, 2019

We know whats right and wrong by critical thinking and realizing what would be best for society. If something victimizes someone. Its probably wrong. And the christian morals are absolute garbage anyway

Alphaeevee Level 4 Mar 14, 2019

I have yet to meet a theist who can even define right and wrong. Typically, they'll say that god is good, to which I respond that god exterminated nearly the entire human race, so should we measure our goodness by how many people we have murdered?

It is impossible to be good WITH god. One must abandon our delusions to discover good.

ldheinz Level 7 Mar 13, 2019

I do not agree in so far as it is possible to do anything within the realm of a made up God. Morality included. So saying it is impossible to be good with God is incorrect. Morality is subjective. If it was not it would be like Gravity and other natural laws...measurable and constant. Humanity is anything but in relation to how we practice morality. Why are people moral? It is a cost benefit analysis for many. That is why when shared society/civilization collapses so many turn to actions that their civilized self's would never consider an option. If someone chooses to define morality by following the tenants of "God" and through that path abides by civilization rules and provides a positive result for others and themselves are they not moral? You can only define things by ones immediate circumstances and ones knowledge at the time. I do not disagree we need to abandoned delusion yet the other extreme, pure unfeeling reason leads to things like Eugenics and Genocide. Good for you is not often the same for others; this is were compromise and a willingness to sacrifice for the greater good comes into play. This is one of the great stumbling points in large scale human morality.

Obeying out of fear is not morality.


Atheists are routinely asked how people will know not to rape and murder without religion telling them not to do it, especially a religion that backs up the orders with threats of hell. Believers, listen to me carefully when I say this: When you use this argument, you terrify atheists. We hear you saying that the only thing standing between you and Ted Bundy is a flimsy belief in a supernatural being made up by pre-literate people trying to figure out where the rain came from. This is not very reassuring if you’re trying to argue from a position of moral superiority. - Amanda Marcotte

ldheinz Level 7 Mar 13, 2019

I murder and rape all I want. I just don't want to. I consider morality to be the wellbeing of our species and our ecology. Things that increase the wellbeing of these things are good and things that hurt it are bad.

My question is how can you consider devine command to be moral? What if god tells you to kill your ? Would you do it? Is that good because god commanded it?

Stuttrboy Level 4 Mar 12, 2019

A better question might be: "How can you know what's right and wrong or have morals with God"? Considering how much war, torture and murder have been inspired by religion throughout history, a God who gives children cancer, a bible that commands stoning a woman to death if she's not a virgin on her wedding, beating slaves to death, etc. And speaking of animals, God seems to have set up a system whereby most animals get nutrition and survive by eating other animals. I think we make much better decisions and act more humanely when we just use our own brains and our own intuition rather than relying on the invisible sky .

Downtowndan Level 3 Mar 12, 2019

I am constantly curious about Atheists defining stance about the non existence of God and yet they consistently blame this "God" for things. So I think the better way to approach any conversation about "Gods" influence needs to start with; "Since God does not exist let's look at the true reason why this is happening/happened, your role in it and how we can change/fix it." Would you agree?

@Quarm I've never come across any atheists who blame god for anything, because it just flat out doesn't exist.

@Freespirit64 The individual above me Downtowndan stated "How can you know what's right and wrong or have morals with God"? Seems like a direct reference a non existent being. He identifies as an Atheist. I have read many posts with a similar sentiment or reference. Blaming this "God" for things. In most cases in lieu of confronting the people or groups actually doing or not doing something etc. In fact I would say a large portion of people post about how much God sucks. It is amusing to me and I think it illuminates an interesting question; would Atheism have purpose if "God" was proven without doubt to not Exist?

When an atheist talks about god I think it kind of goes without saying that we're making a point, not that we actually believe it exists.


We decide. Collectively. There were periods in history when murder wasn't wrong, as long as it was another tribe or a lower class--witness medieval Japan or ancient Sparta, and those are just two of many, many examples.

Every society we know of or have studied throughout history has the same basic set of rules:
Don't lie.
Don't cheat.
Don't murder (somebody who's "us", ignored for someone who's "them" ).
Don't steal.
Don't mess around with someone else's woman/man.
Obey lawful authority.

Those who haven't had this basic set of rules, haven't survived.

Morality is the rules that we all more or less agree to for our own individual and collective good.

Elganned Level 7 Mar 11, 2019

I would point out that there were moral codes of behaviour in practice as long as there have been human beings alive and living collectively on earth and that is probably around 5 million years. Our primitive ancestors had to adopt a moral structure in order to form communities, it’s a matter of survival. Anyone who stole or transgressed from the group would have either been killed or cast out, which amounted to the same thing. It’s in our own interest to co-operate and act morally towards the others in our tribe. Even tribes in remote parts of Asia and South America today, who still have never seen or heard of the Christian god will have some sort of moral code which they live by. As far as Christianity is concerned, along with Judaism and Islam....they are very recent inventions by man, compared to the age of humanity, and therefore morality is very much older than these religions.

Marionville Level 9 Mar 11, 2019

^^^ What she said.


Just the fact they called the alleged "other person" an animal tells me that their so called moral foundation ("God" or biblical references) is probably not a good foundation to make a diferentiation at what's morally good or bad. Therefore Their foundation is broken and probably bias. Meaning those they consider human deserve to live and those they don't consider humans (or like animal) deserves murder. Totally wrong

missgi Level 4 Mar 11, 2019

As a species I think its one of the primary ways we define morality; against the "other". That I think needs to change and we need to be humanity first in order to progress as a species.

I agree with you Quarm. That would be ideal... But our problem is tribalism. We see it every day. It would be nice if one day we stop treating each other as subhumans. The history of tribalism goes far and beyond since the stone ages. Including Religious wars / genocides. Are we different than our ancestors? Not really that much, just more technologically sophisticated in the way we kill each other.

Write Comment
Humanist does not evaluate or guarantee the accuracy of any content read full disclaimer
  • Humanist.com is the largest non-profit community for humanists!