Do Atheists Pose a Threat to Morality?

  (28 June 08)

Atheism is said to pose a major threat to morality. Some theists claim that disbelief leads to moral relativism and undermines a major factor motivating pro-social behavior. Recent research can help us see what is true and false about these anxieties.

This piece from the Psychology Today blog is by Jesse Prinz Ph.D. and was originally published in Experiments in Philosophy (interesting title – must follow it up).

If you are like me you would likely think that morality can arise from our consideration of what could happen to our community if there was none. And that we don’t need some ancient pronouncements about how best to live taking account of other peoples interests as well as our own.

Anyway the Prinz piece is worth a read.


My understanding is that at least in Australian society Christians/church-goers are virtually indistinguishable from the rest of us in terms of their moral behaviour. They are no more law-abiding or less likely to have sex before marriage, for example, than the average non-churched Aussie.

There are some differences, though, I believe: church-goers are more likely to vote conservative - and thus more likely to support mean-spirited actions like locking up asylum-seekers indefinately. Attempts (in my past life) to raise indigenous issues in my local Anglican church were met with skepticism and even hostility: with some exceptions, these gentle theists were not at all inclined to see fault in the early settlers' 'dispersal' of Aborigines in our area.

Perhaps it could be argued that theism is the real threat to morality.

Posted by Greg Spearritt

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