Sunday, January 16, 2011

Is Atheism Moral, Amoral, or Immoral?

Today I am going to make a couple small posts trying to dispel some myths about atheists.  All too often when I converse with theists, they have no clue about what atheism is and what we actually believe.  One myth I hear a lot is that atheists and atheism, in general, are immoral.  The term "moral" is defined as:
"of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong."
Conversely, "immoral" is defined as:   
"violating moral principles; not conforming to the patterns of conduct usually accepted or established as consistent with principles of personal and social ethics."
For "amoral" I am going to include two definitions:  The first is:
"not involving questions of right or wrong; without moral quality; neither moral nor immoral."
and the second,
"having no moral standards, restraints, or principles; unaware of or indifferent to questions of right or wrong."
     All of the previous definitions are taken from  In my "Atheism is a Religion!" post, I explained that the only attribute you can know for sure about someone who uses the term "atheist" is that they lack a belief in a god or gods.  After reading the definitions of "moral", "amoral", and "immoral", which do you think describes atheism in general?  I'll give you a hint; this question has the same answer if I were to substitute the word "atheism" "theism".  Atheism, in addition to theism, is amoral.  To be moral or immoral you have to hold beliefs of morality that complement your atheism or theism.  The belief of a god or gods holds no weight when deciding whether a person is moral or immoral, but there are many atheists I would consider immoral and many theists I would consider as immoral.  However, their immorality is not contingent on the sole issue of belief in a god or gods.  Despite this, I fear that theists are more likely to be immoral because of dogmatic bigotry.  Theism can and has led to organized religions, most of which practice xenophobia and discriminate/limit peoples' rights based on grounds I find to be immoral.  For example, the Catholic positions on gays and marriage, the Judaic and Islamic positions on each other, and Christian views on abortions.  I do not want to get into a serious discussion of absolute and relative morality, but feel free to leave a comment about it and I'll be happy to answer specific questions!  In conclusion, do not assume that just because someone is an atheist or a theist, they are immoral.

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