Where Do Some Atheists Get Their Morals?

July 31, 2013

A recent Twitter argument has kept me thinking – what do people out there actually believe when it comes to worldview and ethics as atheists?

My atheism started as a conclusion to an exploration of the foundation of religion. It began with an investigation of Jesus and an initial conclusion that if he did exist, the entire Gospel is a lie. For being famous he certainly was erased from Roman records pretty quickly. So I went back to where my family comes from – Rromani paganism descended from Hinduism, Norse paganism/Asatru, Druidism, Celtic paganism. Over time, these failed me and brought me to mystical systems focused on self-improvement. My last foray into any spiritual practice was Taoism, specifically internal alchemy. I keep some of the practices to this day (such as guided meditation) and some of the practices and ideals I picked up from Zen Buddhism, especially the zen state of no-mind. But I’m an atheist, because every system of practices and beliefs failed to live up to their claims. In essence, they said the world worked in a certain way, and I found these claims to be false.

However, I tried to maintain consistency with my actual beliefs. I stopped basing my moral and ethical systems on those that religion taught me. I reconsidered everything that I thought might be right or wrong. I examined why they’re right or wrong. I researched philosophy and logical arguments. I researched actual sociological, anthropological, and biological data. Thanks to my current partner, I’ve gained even more insight thanks to her experiences in philosophy and a specific school of sociology focused on gender. This is why I’m a feminist – the data, the science, and the philosophical logic all point to Critical Race Theory being the best examination of the world around us and Feminism being the most accurate model of the current oppression system that we exist in. They call this oppression system the Kyriarchy (or the Patriarchy, when being less specific toward intersectional realities) and offer ways to dismantle and combat it.

However, it seems like there’s a peculiar caste of atheists in the world who claim that atheism is just a conclusion. A conclusion on there being no gods. This can’t be true, however, because if you come from the Judeo-Christian or Abrahamic context that most of the Western (and large swaths of the Eastern) world comes from, by becoming an atheist you also toss out the justification for your entire moral and social system. God and his commandments, as well as the sayings of his prophets, have been used to justify literally the entire social order. In contradictory terms at times (see slavery, whether parents have the right to beat or bully children, economic oppression, the role of violence in human life). By asserting that one is an atheist, one must also now fill the massive gap that is one’s social and moral foundation in life.

Without God, how do you determine what is good and what is bad? What is right and what is wrong? What is just and what is unjust? What is valid and what is invalid?

I’m hoping that, like me, every atheist would answer “science, data, the reality around us.” That would be simple, and it would mean we would all be Feminists. Because when it comes to reality, data, and science, the science of Sociology has pretty much proven that intersectional Feminism (the radical Feminism of the coasts that comes especially from feminists of color) is the most valid real-world ethical structure that we have. It comes from Critical Race Theory, an examination of how societal oppression works. A system that was born out of Critical Theory, which in practice is still the most accurate way to examine the way society actually works. This is the reality-based worldview. Every other atheistic worldview I have encountered relies on unfalsifiable claims or out-right false claims.

Where do these atheists get their morals from? Why is it so difficult to be self-reflective for these people, to examine what they believe to be right or wrong, if they’re able to ask themselves if they honestly believe god exists?

This is why I have grudging respect for fundamentalists – at least they have the intellectual honesty to say that they do believe that God exists in whatever capacity and they’re just following God’s laws. I wish that there were more moderate religious people, but the fundamentalists are using a logical argument still. Usually. It’s the atheists that confuse me here – they claim to be the more rational ones, usually, but they fail to live up to that when there’s actual problems in the world.

Until atheism, as a movement, has banished anti-feminism, racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and anti-QUILTBAG/GSM social pressures. So long as my friends who aren’t WEIRD (White, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) men feel like they don’t belong in the movement, the movement is failing.

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