Atheism and the Basis of Morality

In A. W. Musschenga & Anton van Harskamp (eds.), What Makes Us Moral? Springer. pp. 257-269 (2013)
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People in many parts of the world link morality with God and see good ethical values as an important benefit of theistic belief. A recent survey showed that Americans, for example, distrust atheists more than any other group listed in the survey, this distrust stemming mainly from the conviction that only believers in God can be counted on to respect morality. I argue against this widespread tendency to see theism as the friend of morality. I argue that our most serious moral obligations -- the foundations of what can be called “ordinary morality ” -- remain in place only if God doesn’t exist. In recent years, some atheists have reacted to society’s distrust of them by claiming that atheism accommodates ordinary morality just as well as theism does. The truth is even stronger: only atheism accommodates ordinary morality. Logically speaking, morality is not common ground between theists and atheists. Morality depends on atheism

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Stephen Maitzen
Acadia University


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