Does being an atheist affect your values?

What do you value? Do you think about your values consciously? Unconsciously? Does being an atheist affect what you value?

I recently received treatment for an eating disorder and the center I was admitted to emphasized a “value-based” recovery. We did this activity called “value sort” where we were given 100 cards. Each card named and described a value. After several rounds of narrowing down the values that were important to us, we made a list of our top ten. Here’s mine:

  1. Passion
  2. Family
  3. Purpose
  4. Acceptance
  5. Loving
  6. Loved
  7. Creativity
  8. Achievement
  9. Sexuality
  10. Contribution

Once you had your list, we often used our values in groups and activities. 

This was unlike any other mental health treatment I had ever received before. It was tailored to what was important to me and my life. Treatment was very intense but also meaningful. 

The values I chose feel like what I would have chosen ten or twenty years ago. I don’t change much. Many of the values were ingrained in me as a child and fit my personality.

There were values such as “faith” and “spirituality” in the deck of 100 cards – obviously, I didn’t pick those. But other than that, I don’t feel being an atheist affected my other choices. Maybe it affects the way I view and live my values but not necessarily why I chose them. I am really curious if any of you feel atheism affects your values.

Also, do you ever spend time thinking about your values, or is it more of a natural undercurrent in what you do in life?


  1. Katydid says

    The values I see being demonstrated by those who make the most noise about how Christian they are…are not ones I would admire.

    As an Atheist, I give to charity, support my family, took care of my elderly mother as she was dying, volunteered for GOTV and over the years have been a volunteer soccer coach, afternoon school room parent (I got out of work before school let out), set up the elementary school’s internet and homepage back when that was a new thing, foster parent for animal rescues, taken and fulfilled wishes from countless holiday wish trees, and have given rides to the grocery store for a neighbor whose health doesn’t let her drive.

    Yet if you ask the Christians, I’m going straight to hell. I hear they have margaritas there, so I think I’ll enjoy it.

  2. JM says

    Other then the overtly religious values I don’t think atheism would make a big difference. Even values such as Faith and Spirituality would find a place for some Atheists. There is probably more difference to be found in what people mean by some of those values. What Family means to a hard core fundamentalist is probably different then what it means to an atheist. For a fundamentalist having their own and other families conform to their religious idea of the ideal family is usually important. An atheist is probably more concerned that everybody is content and well adjusted then the specific form of the family.

  3. says

    Does being an atheist affect what you value?

    Not sure how I’d answer that; except to say that irrational superstitions and beliefs have NOT affected my values. At least not in a way that I’m consciously aware of.

  4. says

    Follow-on: asking “Does being an atheist affect what you value?” is kind of ass-backwards. It’s like asking a divorced person “Does not having a spouse affect what you value?” In order to answer that question, one would first have to ask what their spouse was like, what sort of relationship they had, how THAT effected what they valued, and how/why the relationship ended. So one should be asking “How did your earlier religious beliefs affect what you valued?” and then moving on to how that changed after you stopped believing.

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