Atheist = Good?

Long time no see!

I apologize for the lack of posting this past week. I have been hung up with a nasty sinus infection and haven’t felt like doing much of anything. Today is day number three on antibiotics and I’m starting to feel human again.

This post won’t be long but I do have a question lingering on my mind:

Do you equate “atheist” with good morals? Just like when someone says a “good Christian” man with “good Christian” values? Not that I’ve ever heard anyone describe anything as “good atheist”. I don’t know if I necessarily associate “atheist” with good but I know as soon as someone says “good Christian” I automatically assume the opposite. 

This question makes me think of this sleazy car mechanic my husband and I, unfortunately, did business with a few years back. The guy gave us a long-winded speech about being a god-fearing man from a good Christian family and then boy did he really screw us.

Sometimes I think when people add that “good Christian” label it’s like they have to prove they’re good. I’m an atheist and for the most part a good human but I really don’t think I have to prove that to anyone. 

What do you think? Do you think the term “atheist” is linked with good morals? Do you think when someone says “good Christian” you should run the other way? Do you feel you have to prove you’re good? Fun stories welcome. 🙂 


  1. brucegee1962 says

    It’s certainly annoying when we hear Christians say “You’re just an atheist because you don’t want to worry about morality!”

    I spend a good deal of time thinking about morality. I think that it’s an extremely important subject — far too important to be left to a Bronze Age shepherd and an Iron Age carpenter.

  2. says

    At one point I thought atheists were more moral than Christians then the elevator incident happened and the mask was ripped off. I no longer look sideways at all Christians, just the ones who are very vocal about it.

  3. says

    Being an atheist means not having deus ex machinations.

    Atheists can’t rationalize personally desired actions by claiming a supernatural being demands it. Killers claim “voices in my head” told them to do it to absolve themsevles responsibility, regardless of whether they actually heard voices or not. The same goes for the religious, except that none of them will admit they weren’t “told by gawd” and are rationalizing the atrocity they personally want to commit.

    Dr. Volkan Topalli’s (Georgia State University) 2013 study entitled “With God on my side: The paradoxical relationship between religious belief and criminality among hardcore street offenders” showed how some use religion to rationalize criminal acts.

    Research has found that many street offenders anticipate an early death, making them less prone to delay gratification, more likely to discount the future costs of crime, and thus more likely to offend. Ironically, many such offenders also hold strong religious convictions, including those related to the punitive afterlife consequences of offending. [. . .] Despite the deterrent effects of religion that have been highlighted in prior research, our results indicate that religion may have a counterintuitive criminogenic effect in certain contexts.

    When the religious use “good” as an adjective, they’re using it as a synonym for “do you have the same religion as me?” instead of more honestly asking “Do my actions minimize harm or benefit others?” Being an atheist doesn’t guarantee being a moral person, but does make it harder to rationalize immoral actions (e.g. Harris’s racism).

  4. John Morales says

    There’s ambiguity afoot:
    (1) Good Christian = a Christian who is a good person; vs.
    (2) Good Christian = A person who adheres to Christianity.

    Also, the locution “a god-fearing man”: this implies someone who would does not do good stuff because they’re a good person, but because they fear the consequences otherwise.

    (Heaven and Hell are carrot and stick, but I notice how it’s the stick that’s emphasised; aka “fire and brimstone” preaching)

    Finally, no, I don’t equate atheism with good morals — but at least I know a good atheist is good not because they fear God.

    Anyway. Me, I find it easier to trust non-goddists than goddists.

  5. robert79 says

    I view “good atheist” and “good christian” as roughly equivalent, I don’t think your belief or lack of it has *anything* to do with your morality.

    People do good or bad things because of how they were raised and how empathic they are. They will then try and find justifications for their actions after the fact, and one place they will look for such justifications is in their (lack of) belief.

    For example — someone may decide to become a doctor and save lives. They do so because it feels right and because they feel valued doing so, but if you were to ask them for their reasoning they’ll say it’s because they think it’s the good christian thing to do, or because they’re an atheist and realise that you only have one life and it would be a shame to let that go to waste. I think that if this person had been an atheist instead of a christian or vice versa, they’d still choose to become a doctor, only their arguments after the fact would change.

  6. DrVanNostrand says

    The way I see it, atheism removes one potential cause of bigotry and delusion, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, we’re still subject to all the numerous other causes. So atheist = good is not a useful heuristic.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    Do you think the term “atheist” is linked with good morals?

    No. Nor with bad morals. It signifies a lack of superstition, not a lack of disagreeableness. I’ve met plenty of atheists who are absolute a-holes.

    Do you think when someone says “good Christian” you should run the other way?

    Absolutely not, but then I do live in the UK where such a person would most likely be CofE and hence pretty inoffensive. I know some lovely people who are “good Christians”, as well as a few absolute a-holes who profess to be such.

    Do you feel you have to prove you’re good?

    Only to my wife and children.

    As far as generalising goes, I’ve said this many times since I realised it a decade or so ago: generalising about people based on their religion is, generally, wrong. Not “wrong” as in “you shouldn’t do it because it’s immoral”, just “you shouldn’t do it because it doesn’t work“. I’ve not come across any useful generalisations in my fifty plus years on the planet that are of any practical use. Pick a… “protected characteristic”, let’s say. Sexuality. Race. Gender. Gender identity. I’ve met a diverse enough group of people with all different expressions of those characteristics to be able to say it’s not only harmful to judge someone based on those things, it’s actively useless because it doesn’t work.

    With one exception.

    In fifty years, I’ve never met a Sikh I didn’t like. Not just “ah, they’re OK”. Literally every single Sikh I’ve ever had ANY dealings with in any capacity, personal or professional, casual or close, brief or extended, every single one of those people has left a significantly positive impression. I may just have been lucky (I must have been, surely?) but I can’t say that about ANY other group you could name. So if you MUST generalise based on race/religion – seek out a Sikh. They’re great. (Your mileage may vary, other races and religions are available.)

  8. says

    Since I live in a mostly atheistic country, it never was a secret to me that atheists too are often immoral and assholes, but on average not more so than Christians and they have a bit harder time justifying bad morals since they do not have a convenient book of fables that condones somewhere in its pages just about any atrocity people can think of.

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