What’s the Atheist Thing to do?

There is a debate in my town about the town’s seal.  There is a citizen’s petition to have the bible on the town seal removed.  I am not going to debate whether or not the seal should be changed.  However, I did have an interesting conversation with someone that brought up a good question.

In my conversation about the seal discussion, someone asked me, “What’s the Christian thing to do?”.  Immediately a counter question came into my head: What’s the atheist thing to do?

Would anybody like to answer that question?  Has anybody ever even considered that question?  There is no answer to that question.  Or, more accurately, there are an endless number of answers to that question.  Since atheism has absolutely no moral standard, an atheist could make any moral claim they wanted, and that is a massive problem.

There are a number of atheistic or secular moral philosophies and they at times are at great odds to each other.  For example, Objectivism is the philosophy created by Ayn Rand that teaches that productive achievement and the pursuit of one’s own happiness is the chief aim of man.  Utilitarianism on the other hand teaches that it is not the individual’s happiness or well-being that is the most important aim, but the overall group’s.  These two philosophies stand very much opposed to each other on several very important and foundational questions.  So when atheists claim that Scripture is up to interpretation they fail to realize that their own worldview is chalked full of its own epistemological and interpretation problems.

There are some people who like to claim that Scripture is dogged with interpretation problems and could create a large number of varying positions.  The people who usually say this tend not to be theologians and most likely have not read any part of Scripture for years, if at all.  When it comes to moral issues Scripture is almost perfectly clear on what moral stances should or should not be held.  People who disagree with that have probably not put in the effort of trying to understand Scripture.

Admittedly Scripture does take some interpretation work.  However, there is a science to interpretation and it is called hermeneutics.  In other words, interpretation is not up to the individual.  When conducting proper interpretation there is a guideline that must be used in order to come to the correct interpretation.  This honestly is not that difficult once someone understands the basics of hermeneutics.

Is it not humorous that someone could ask me, “What’s the Christian thing to do?” knowing full well what the answer to that question is?  However, if I ask, “What’s the atheist thing to do?”, no one can give me one solid answer.  The Christian thing to do is to pray for the people who would like to change the seal, continue to show love towards everyone, while presenting arguments either for or against changing the seal.  Why do we know that this the Christian thing to do?  Because God loves us and shows patience to us even in our sin and has commanded us to do the same.  Believe it or not, Scripture does not command that the bible has to be on one’s town seal, so it ultimately does not matter what happens.

But what blank stares do you think you would get if you were to ask someone, “What’s the atheist thing to do?”  Where in atheist lore is it written that one must love one’s enemies?  It is not written anywhere.  As far as I can tell, the atheist thing to do in this situation is to not care if you offend thousands of people in an effort to please hundreds.  Most people in my town probably do not care about the fate of the seal, but of the people who do care, most of them would like to have the bible on the seal for a number of reasons.  So what moral guideline is the group of people who want to remove the seal following?  It certainly does not sound like they are following the Utilitarian guideline.  So what is it?  Apparently offending thousands of people (the current majority) is not much of a concern.

Again, I do not need to go into all the reasons as to why each side would either like to preserve the seal or change the seal to make my point.  My point is that there is no moral guideline for the atheist.  The atheist can come up with any moral claim one wants since there is no point of reference.

When trying to find an image to go along with this blog I found a meme that had a very attractive girl wearing very enticing clothing with a caption that read: Atheism means never feeling guilty for masturbating.  See what atheism allows people to conclude?  It allows people to conclude that objectifying women is not a bad thing.  With atheism as your default worldview, why not conclude this?  There is no atheist principle that would make said meme immoral.  So what’s the atheist thing to do?  Apparently a viable option for the atheist is to look up scantly clad women online and not feel one shred of guilt for doing so.  (Here is where I will insert that the meme proves that atheism is much more than just the lack of belief in a deity.  There are auxiliary beliefs that materialize from atheism.  To claim that atheism is simply the lack of belief in a deity is at best an oversimplification and at worst a willfully ignorant claim.)

Please take a moment and look at the meme I ultimately decided upon.  Notice how it ends with an atheist does not have to “apologize for being human.”  You know, like cursing that rude person you just had an interaction with – that is just being human.  Or gossiping about your friend’s stupid decision – that is just being human.  Or cheating on your spouse or girl or boyfriend – that is just being human.  Or getting drunk and making regrettable decisions – that is just being human.  And the list goes on and on.  After all, it’s the atheist thing to do.

If I were to ask, “What’s the atheist thing to do?”, I could receive multiple contradictory responses without any possible way to check the superiority of each response.  If however I were to ask, “What’s the Christian thing to do?”, I could check the superiority of each response by an investigation of the Christian text.  Which is not that difficult to do if one has a foundational understanding of hermeneutics.

While the majority of atheists may eventually come to an agreement on some moral issues, it does not mean that their conclusion is necessarily right.  It simply means they have agreed on a path.  Just because everyone in a car believes they should take a right at the intersection instead of a left, it does not mean that the right hand turn is the correct one to make.  It is merely the agreed upon decision, not the correct decision.  There is no correct moral decision in atheism.

One last point.  Everyone knows that the answer to “What’s the Christian thing to do?” will lead to peace and love; that is why that question can be so confidently asked.  But nobody has any idea where the answer to “What’s the atheist thing to do?” will lead.

So I ask you: “What’s the atheist thing to do?”  I am going to start asking this question more often.

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13 comments

  1. Do you only love others and be patient because you were told to? Every time you do something, do you have to pause and consider whether or not it is what God wants you to do, or does doing the right thing come naturally to you?

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    • Thank you very much for your conversation starter. I appreciate your time. Since you asked a personal question, I will answer it personally.

      I do not always do the right thing naturally. There are times when I do the right thing naturally but there are many times when I do not want to do the right thing. There are times when doing the wrong thing would be easier and more enjoyable, but I try not to perform those actions only because of God’s commands. I do not always have to pause and consider something, but there are times when I do have to. There are times when the command is what causes me to stir up love and patience. If it were left to only me, there are times when I would not be loving and patient because it would be easier and more enjoyable to not be.

      Christianity teaches that God placed morality on the hearts of people so we should expect people to have a general understanding of right and wrong. That is why I have consistently stated that people can be atheists and still be relatively morally strong.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Curtis, thank you for this article — you have a wonderful perspective that encourages my own thinking and invites conversation. note: I did not see the image/meme that you mentioned when reading this (on my laptop).

    I too have been hearing lots of conversation and questions lately about ‘save the seal’ — ranging from ‘its tradition, leave it alone’, and ‘we have much more important things to work through like the senior center’. Others say, ‘oh here we go again with a pseudo-war-on-religion controversy’ or ‘what the heck is the seal and what’s it for’.

    The more thoughtful people are discussing — how can we address this issue so that our response becomes a model to others for behavior, discussion, and reaching resolution to the many issues that are dividing our communities and the nation. Personally I don’t think we (the citizenry) currently have the skills or traditions to accomplish this effectively right now — but am hopeful that we all want to get to this point — the alternative is not an attractive society.

    You know I disagree with your view that non-Christians are inherently amoral.

    On questions of personal behavior — asking ‘what would a christian or atheist do’ seems highly appropriate to help explore personal values.

    On questions of public concern, I’d like to suggest you/we ask, what does a democratic town do?

    Best, John

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    • John,

      Good to hear from you, my friend. Thank you for replying.

      I want to make a quick clarification. I do not think that non-Christians are inherently amoral. I think that the atheistic worldview is inherently amoral. As Scripture teaches, I believe that even atheists are inherently moral beings meaning that they are aware of moral questions and make decisions on morality. However, the worldview of atheism provides absolutely no framework for morality, hence it is inherently amoral.

      What does a democratic town do? I have no issue with bringing up healthy debate. I do not have a problem that we are debating it. I have a problem with HOW certain people want to debate it. In this blog I do not directly address all the “hows”, but I did hint at the point that some are making that Christians should be expected to give up the right to having the bible on the seal since Christianity calls for peace and love. I find it humorous that certain people can use a Christian teaching (self-sacrifice) to persuade Christians to self-sacrifice (allow the bible to be removed) but have very little concern if they themselves are self-sacrificing (they push forward trying to remove the bible even though they know they are deeply offending thousands of individuals). Does that make sense?

      Liked by 1 person

      • If the Christian god exists it is a bumbling failure. Worked six days and had to take a break. Has stamina issues. Failed with geniuses, got out foxed by a snake, decided he didn’t like how his pet project turned out and like a petulant child it destroyed every living thing. Inexplicably it kept part of the old project to do the clean up and reboot then expected a different outcome. So much for omnipotence. This bad boy seems to have run out of steam. Nobody has heard hide no hair from it for over 2K.

        Morales? This is rich. Believe in me or I’ll send you to hell. The Bible is literally an instruction manual on whom and how to bye your slaves. How badly you can beat them and how to trick your Jewish slaves so you don’t have to free them after the arbitrary six yr. rule. It goes into detail on the subject. It is hard to tell if you haven’t been duped be the evil ex sidekicks sycophants. Please, any high school ethics class could do better. You boy is a war god pure and simple. A malevolent bully and a genocidal lunatic. Nowhere in that good ole tale is there even a hint that maybe a rethink is in order. All of the aforementioned horror story is heartily endorsed by your Jr. G. Man. How dare you insinuate that I am a-moral. If my moral compass just pointed to don’t be a dick, I would be more ethnically grounded than any theistic moral pronouncements.

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      • Thank you for commenting. I will skip to the end of your comment since I believe it is quite telling.

        You did not correctly read and comprehend my statement on atheism and amorality. I did not insinuate you were amoral. I said nothing about you nor did I even mention any atheist. I stated that the atheistic worldview is inherently amoral. Just because your worldview is amoral, it does not then necessarily follow that you are. Many people do not even know what the tenants are of their own worldview, much less even live them out, so an observation of a worldview is not necessarily an observation of an observant of said worldview. Respectfully, I believe most high school debaters could tell you that. Since you seem incapable of comprehending even a simple point as that, I will not go into defending all the crudely structured points you bring up.

        Also, I noticed that you did not bother with countering my claim on atheism (that there is no guideline for morality). All you did was create a Red Herring argument by bringing up what you think to be flaws in another worldview. This is what I find many to do. Very rarely do I ever have someone actually try to defend the atheistic worldview by addressing the mentioned concerns. Mostly all they do is ignore the obvious problems in their worldview and resort to attack tactics.

        But I do appreciate that you read my blog.

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  3. Yes sir you definitely did. “I want to make a quick clarification. I do not think that non-Christians are inherently amoral. I think that the atheistic worldview is inherently amoral.” Sir, you are disingenuous. I am an Atheist. According to you my world view is inherently amoral. You are making a distinction without a difference. I.e. Black people love fried chicken. It’s just a generalization I didn’t mean anyone specifically. What a nifty little tap dance routine you do. Every word I wrote about the god you worship is demonstrably true.

    You are profoundly mistaken about the word “Atheism”. I thought the meaning of atheism would be obvious even to the meanest understanding. After all the word is descriptive all by itself.

    I am mistaken.

    The miss understanding has less to do with the meaning or definition of the word “atheism” and more to do with the dichotomy with the persons involved in the existence of a god question. People assume atheism is about religion, but it’s not. It is a political stance more than anything. Many atheists think religion is nothing more than a psychological virus when they deign to think about it at all. Every rational thinking person knows there are no such things as gods, demons, pixies, fairies, trolls, smurfs, angles, ghosts, saints, nor afterlife. There are no such things as miracles, prophesies, omens, signs, poltergeist nor zombies. What’s to fear, if you step on a crack, you will not cause your mothers back to brake. It’s all one.

    Unfortunately the word atheism engenders a learned, visceral reaction from theists. Atheism is perceived to be a threat to a belief system based on faith. The theist paradigm, by necessity, includes a supernatural realm where ill-defined constructs have agency to interact with people. The preferred justification for theistic belief is this agency where they perceive they have a relationship with one or more of said constructs. This is the theist’s magic bullet, a get out of jail free card, their carte blanche to obfuscate on any doctrinal challenge. Any challenge to or questioning of religious beliefs is attributed to and orchestrated by an evil agent that employs trickery to challenge religious teaching causing adherents to question why they believe. The prescribed antidote is entrenchment into that netherworld of faith where cognitive dissonance meets emotional connections to plausible belief reinforcement and logic suppression. To put it another way; it takes just a little imagination and the will to filter their reasoning brains to support their conformational biases.

    The hyphenated word, Anti-theist, is the label I use to describe anyone who thinks the belief in the supernatural is irrational and has a deleterious effect on humanities welfare. I would accept minor variations on this theme for the meaning of the phrase. I, and others of my ilk, are in active apposition to the propagation of all religions. I believe that irrational beliefs lead to irrational actions. This deduction is reinforced daily by the the actions of theist’s world wide. The happiest, healthiest, safest people with the highest standard of living, are people who live in countries with the lowest population of religious adherents.
    Let’s say that you believe there is a planet Nine and that the planet supports intelligent life imbued with the Devine power of numinous abilities. I would want to know how you come by this knowledge. You say you read it in a book and billions of others including people who have devoted their professional lives interpreting the book support this thesis and you have been persuaded the claim to be true. Hum, I’m going to require more than your say so and that book to form any opinion on the subject. The anti part is my response to planet nine proponents efforts to infuse their best guess paradigm onto mine. I have no religion, never have.

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    • You once again only bring up a bunch of Red Herring arguments instead of dealing with the question at hand. Since they are logically fallible arguments, I will not deal with them.

      You quoted me and still somehow incorrectly comprehended the statement. I did not even generally describe atheists. I described atheism. There is a very big difference between atheists and atheism. You took a statement about a worldview and applied it to an individual; that is logically fallacious. You created a straw man argument by saying I insinuated you were amoral. If you read my reply to The Closet Atheist, you would have noticed that I said atheists can be moral, and in fact I expect them to be. There I actually spoke of a group of people and stated that they are moral agents.

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      • Christianity is amoral. It is dishonest, fallacious, primitive, false, cruel, contradictory and an abject failure in advancing the human condition. I’m not saying followers of Christianity are bad people just profoundly mistaken.

        I am not only an Atheist, I’m also an A-big foot, an A-pixie, an A-santa and on and on. Non of these are belief systems, they are not world views. To conflate the belief in the supernatural with Atheism demonstrates a failure to grasp the semantics of the words theism and atheism.

        Your either dishonest or ignorant, take your pick.

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      • Atheism is indeed a worldview. What you seem to be ignorant of is that the stance of atheism (the belief that there is no God) leads to other philosophical conclusions (like lustfully masturbating being morally acceptable). If there is no God, then that affects one’s view on morality and many other areas of thought. The non-existence of pixies or Santa plays no role on questions of other areas of thought.

        It is true that I could have said “naturalism” instead of atheism as naturalism is a more defined worldview. However, atheism does indeed affect how one views the world, so it is in fact a worldview. I gave examples of this in my blog. You have chosen to ignore those examples.

        What is your worldview if not atheism? What worldview do you use to answer questions about life? I am willing to bet you do not have one. If you do not have one, then atheism is your default worldview as it clearly affects how you live your life.

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      • Let’s see, under your logic not accepting the claim that trolls are real is a worldview. What you fail to grasp is all gods are the same as any mythical character. This is such a simple concept. God is not real. The lack of belief in one only signifies the claim is not believable nothing more. As to morales we innately come to morality. It’s in our DNA. Primates display empty, fairness, love, fear and more. I’m absolutely sure Jesus had nothing to do with it. You are in error when you conflate religious pronouncements and morality. God is nothing more than tyrannical imaginary friend. If were anything else you would not need to go through philosophical gymnastics

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