The Instigator
killa_connor
Con (against)
Winning
48 Points
The Contender
tmac15689
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points

Atheists are less moral then Christians.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/25/2007 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,817 times Debate No: 1003
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (25)
Votes (17)

 

killa_connor

Con

American's increasing acceptance of religious diversity does not extend to those who don't believe in a god, according to a national survey by researchers in the University of Minnesota's department of sociology. As a matter of fact, this study revealed that Atheists/Agnostics are the most distrusted minority in America!

I find the suggestion that atheists are somehow "less moral" then religious people to be insulting. There is no empirical evidence to support this claim and I think religious tolerance should extend to atheists too. Let's not forget that atheism is a disbelief in God but a belief system nonetheless (since God can't be disproved by the same logic that his existence can't be proven) and a belief system that doesn't deserve the sort of condemnation and overt hostility that it has been receiving recently. We atheists compose 10% of the American population and even though we might not believe in God, it doesn't mean we don't have governing principles that we adhere too. Morality and religion might be commonly associated with each other but is certainly not a cause and effect relationship. Keep in mind, that morality and written moral philosophies have existed long before the Bible!
tmac15689

Pro

Atheists are less moral than Christians

First of all, I am jewish, but I will still take you on.

If you are an Atheist that claims to be moral, you should consider yourself a secular humanist, not an atheist.
The only reason that Atheists have some of the same moral foundations as Christians is because they grew up in the same society as Christians, and therefore, the morals of America are similar to Christians. However, they are not as moral.

Simply, as an observer, everyone knows that incentives and punishments, heaven and hell, are better ways to instill morality. NOW, I MUST SAY THAT PEOPLE WHO CLAIM TO BE CHRISTIANS ARE NOT NECESSARILY CHRISTIANS. Just like not all atheists have the same dedication to atheism. So, don't pull some argument like Christians commit more crimes or something. They probably aren't true believers.

I agree that Atheists shouldn't be the most distrusted minority in America. It should be the cult of Mormonism.

HOWEVER, religious tolerance doesn't extend to people who aren't religious. Religious implies believing in god. SIMPLE. Now, there should be tolerance towards Atheists. Just not religious. How can you consider yourself part of religious diversity if your not a religion. Become part of the secular humanists if you want me to consider you religious. You can have a belief system, but that doesn't make you a religion.

I get it. Maybe god doesn't exist. You might be right. I know no one can prove god or not. WHATEVER.

But just because you can [prove] god doesn't exist doesn't mean you are a religion,

I trust many atheists, and some of my best friends are. But we aren't debating whether its alright to be Atheist. Only, that Atheists are less moral than Christians. People of true belief are more likely to act morally. Not only because of incentives and punishments. But also by a general reflection that Christians take part of every Sunday at church where they are constantly told to act good. This makes them better, and less likely to act incorrectly. Christians are more forgiving. Christians are more generous. Christians are less angry. These are all generalizations. But, come on. Real Christians are very nice and kind people. Atheists have less to prove [to god], so usually are less likely to care about acting correctly. I admit there are some nice Atheists, but they generally have a lower code of morality.
Debate Round No. 1
killa_connor

Con

Thanks a lot for accepting this debate tmac and I look forward to your responses. I love the interest this debate has generated and I'm going to do the best I can to represent the Atheist community!

"If you are an Atheist that claims to be moral, you should consider yourself a secular humanist, not an atheist."

That's precisely the point. I am an atheist AND a secular humanist, the point of this debate is to prove that atheists are no less moral (in fact, i believe that in general we are more moral) then our Christian counterparts. I am glad that you brought up secular humanism because that's what I was referring to when I said that atheists might lack a set of supernatural beliefs (like the belief in God and Jesus and all of his magic) but that doesn't mean they lack a moral philosophy! You don't need to believe in God to accept and live according to basic guiding principles. As a matter of fact, I would even argue that a literal interpretation of the Bible and "God's Word" would actually conflict with some of the most basic and intuitive moral judgements. Take for example these passages from the Old Testament:

DEUTERONOMY 22:13-21
If it is discovered that a bride is not a virgin, the Bible demands that she be executed by stoning immediately.

LEVITICUS 18:19
The Bible forbids a married couple from having sexual intercourse during a woman's period. If they disobey, both shall be executed.

DEUTERONOMY 25:11-12
If a man gets into a fight with another man and his wife seeks to rescue her husband by grabbing the enemy's genitals, her hand shall be cut off and no pity shall be shown her.

These do not appear to be analogies for some inner conflict. These are (and were intended to be) explicit instructions for living a moral life, with the understanding that some omniscient creator desired humans to behave this way. Part of the beauty of atheism is that we can laugh at this sort of psycho religious babble, but unfortunately for Christians its not that easy. Even if you don't accept these literal instructions the obliging Christian still has to maintain that the Bible is the ultimate "moral compass" and by conceding that the Bible is "just a product of its time" you are also undermining its ultimate moral worth because true objective morals don't change with time. Our understanding of morality develops and grows and we come closer and closer to this ideal (perhaps unattainable) understanding of what is moral behavior. But lets not forget that fundamentalist Christians do embrace the literal interpretation of the Bible and many groups have often times advocated "Biblical justice" be delivered upon gays and lesbians. Does this make them any less Christian? or any less moral from a Christian perspective because they've adopted a literal interpretation of Christian dogma? Wouldn't this make them better Christians?

Id like to address your argument about acting out of "fear of God" and how you believe that this fear makes Christians more moral then Atheists. I find this argument to be very problematic because it doesn't claim that Christians are actually moral people, instead you argue that they are more prone to getting "scared into being good". The topic of this debate is whether Christians are actually more moral then atheists not if they are generally scared into being moral. Augustine (one of Christianity's founding philosophical advocates) and Immanuel Kant have both argued that true morality are the motivations that drive them. For example, if you are nice to someone because you are scared they are going to punch you in the face if you are mean, you have acted moral solely out of self interest, which really isn't very moral at all, is it? Atheists on the other hand act according to principles that they determine and believe in. One of mine is the Golden Rule (which can be found in almost every religion), treat others as you would like to be treated. I don't behave this way because I'm scared God is going to send me to hell if I don't. I do it because it is a principle I believe in NOT because it is simply within my best interest to act moral.

"Christians are more forgiving. Christians are more generous. Christians are less angry. These are all generalizations. But, come on. Real Christians are very nice and kind people."

Perhaps there are very kind and nice Christians but these kind of generalizations do nothing for your argument. I'm going to instead use facts and statistics to make my point that overall a Christian population behave less moral then an Atheist population. Take for example, Norway. Norway has embraced secularism at the expense of its Christian roots. A 2005 survey conducted by Gallup International rated Norway the least religious country in Western Europe (70% embracing a form of atheism/agnosticism). And how has this faired for the Norwegian population? he Global Peace Index rates Norway the most peaceful country in the world. The Human Development Index, a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standard of living, has ranked Norway No. 1 every year for the last five years. Norway has the second highest GDP per capita in the world, an unemployment rate below 2 percent, and average hourly wages among the world's highest. Compare this to the United States, the "Christian Nation", with 85-90% embracing a form of Christianity. Despite the Sixth Commandment, we are, the most violent nation on earth, with a murder rate four or five times that of our European peers. We have prison populations greater by a factor of six or seven than other rich nations and give an astoundingly small amount in foreign aid to developing countries relative to our bloated income. Teenage pregnancy? We're at the top of the charts. Divorce rates? Again, top of the carts with over half of American marriages ending in divorce. I could go on and on but needless to say that it appears that more Christians does not lead to a more moral society, as a matter of fact, one could argue the opposite.

I would like to end my response with a few definitions:

Religion: A religion is a set of beliefs and practices generally held by a human community.

Atheism: A = Not. Theism = A belief in God. --> A disbelief in God.

"Religious implies believing in god."

Not necessarily! This might anger some of the people commenting below but Atheism really is a religion in the simplest sense. We Atheists have a belief system because it cannot be proven the God doesn't exist therefore we must take it on faith that he doesn't exist (granted a whole lot less faith is needed to believe he doesn't exist then believing that he does exist). This set of belief(s) results in practices that are left up to the individual but are ultimately guided by the fact that no God or afterlife exists so you should live accordingly! Make the most of your life and enjoy it with those that you love, in a way our set of beliefs re-affirm the importance of life far more then Christianity (or any religion that believes in a reward in the afterlife) ever could! We've got nothing to prove to God but we've got plenty to prove to ourselves.

Thanks again!
-connor
tmac15689

Pro

look, all of your arguments are fine and good.

This is a distinct difference between an atheist and a secular humanist. You definitely can be both. I would say that a secular humanist is just as moral as a Christain. All of you statistics just prove that the people who pretend to be true believers or dont even so commit crime and do bad things. The fact is that atheists have no moral basis. Secular humanists do. The golden rule,which you so believe in has its base in religion all around the world.. including Christianity. you are proving my point. the teachings of Christianity including the old testament, are moral stories and oral traditions handed down teaching how to act. Yes, they have changed slightly. Yes, some of the bible tells people to do terrible things. But, real christains know that some of the bible is just old, conservative traditions of the past that are not moral. The bible is a tool to help individuals learn how not to make the same mistakes as the past. Atheists are just people who deny the existence of god. Secular humanists take the moral grounding of the bible/ the way the bible has developed into a moral code in western nations, and use that as a foundation for good behavior.

Plus, I dont buy your argument that athiests have faith that god doesn't exist. and therefore, faith. Thats bunk, and you know it. I have faith that chocolate tastes good, that doesn't maen its a religion. Remember the family guy episode where peter sets up the church of the Fonz. Faith in something random doesn't make it a religion to me or most of the world.

I truly believe that if we take the definition of the round which is, "atheists are less moral than Christians" instead of the revised one my opponent presents "Atheists/secular humanists/people who dont really know what to say, then we are degrading the integrity of the website. I will not argue that secular humanists are less moral. Athiests are less moral. Any atheist who claims to have a moral foundation is usually just westernized/judeo-christianized. my only real argument is that there is a much higher chance of a christian being moral than an atheist because the learn more about the bible, trust in it more, believe they have a reason to act good, and are more forgiving.

Atheists can be good people. It is just a better chance that a christian will have a better moral foundation that that of an atheist. I'm not gonna throw statistics in your face to seem good. I know there are a lot of bloggers and debaters who are athiests. Just listen to logic, and you will see the answer.
Debate Round No. 2
killa_connor

Con

tmac - Nice second round. I noticed that you didn't address the notion that I attacked regarding Christians being more moral out of "fear of God", should I assume you concede this point to me?

"This is a distinct difference between an atheist and a secular humanist. You definitely can be both. I would say that a secular humanist is just as moral as a Christain.... The fact is that atheists have no moral basis. Secular humanists do. "

Indeed, there is a difference between atheism and secular humanism. Atheism is a philosophical view (at the very least) and Secular humanism is a moral philosophy that upholds reason and ethics, and specifically rejects the supernatural and the spiritual as warrants of moral reflection and decision making (the definition in itself disqualifies all Christians). You proceed to point out that they are compatible with each other and even claim that secular humanists are just as moral as Christians! Don't you see how this supports my whole argument? Secular humanism is primarily composed of atheists, in fact, the largest secular humanist organisations in the world is, Any guesses? Yep, thats right. Norway's Human-Etisk Forbund, which has over 69,000 members. I feel like your response here suffers from a lack of revision because even the most casual reading of this argument reveals its contradiction. It makes me wonder what you think Atheists are if not secular humanists? Malicious people with no sense of right and wrong? Clearly atheists have some sort of moral zeitgeist given the fact that atheist countries are so much more peaceful then their Christian counterparts. If so, it must be rooted in some form of secular humanism. Don't you see how your argument sort of implodes on itself?

"The golden rule,which you so believe in has its base in religion all around the world.. including Christianity. you are proving my point.... Any atheist who claims to have a moral foundation is usually just westernized/judeo-christianized."

Proving you point? No! Wow, I'm actually doing quite the opposite. Let me explain. The golden rule, and indeed most basic themes of moral behavior, have existed for long before Christian/Judeo tradition. The Code of Hammurabi, for example, is one of the earliest known sets of written laws that dictated ways of living that were ethical. It was made over 1700 years before Christianity came along! So to suggest that atheists with a moral foundations are just embracing Christian tradition is a big joke. Christianity is not original, it uses teachings from its predecessors and it is ridiculous for you to assume that general morality is "usually just" influenced by "westernized/judeo-christian" ideals because they aren't Christian ideals. It is a universal sense of morality that has been adopted by many religions that pre-date Jesus and his friends.

"All of you statistics just prove that the people who pretend to be true believers or dont even so commit crime and do bad things."

This comment is also particularly problematic because you have created a false dichotomy (this seems to happen a lot on debate.org) between believing in God and doing bad things. You imply that "true believers" don't commit crime and that if you are committing crime you are probably not a 'real' Christian. A Christian is someone who accepts the existence of a benevolent and omniscient God and believes in the sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ. These beliefs lead to Christians embracing a moral code to follow as best they can (a standard of sorts), with the hope that such behavior will be rewarded in the afterlife. This is not to suggest that an inability to follow this code of ethics disqualifies you as a Christian. I was brought up Catholic and part of the Catholic tradition includes a sacrament called Reconciliation. God recognizes that we are not perfect so he lets people tell priests what they did wrong and they get forgiven after being given a penance. This whole notion is ridiculous to me because how could the priest possibly gauge if the person is at all genuine or sincere? But thats another issue all together =). The point is that immoral behavior is expected by the Church, 'cause nobody's perfect! It is not a matter of people "pretending" to be true believers, they can believe in God and be a Christian but still do bad things. Does that make sense?

"But, real christains know that some of the bible is just old, conservative traditions of the past that are not moral. The bible is a tool to help individuals learn how not to make the same mistakes as the past."

I think this is a misrepresentation of "real" Christians and the role of the Bible in Christianity. It is much more then an old and conservative tool to keep people from making the same same mistakes as the past. Christianity regards the Bible, as an authoritative scripture: written by human authors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and therefore for many Christians is the inerrant Word of God. The existing debate is whether the Bible is intended to be interpreted literally or in a more abstract way. I just think its a weak argument to attempt to downplay the Bible's importance to Christian tradition, its not really something you can effectively debate.

"my only real argument is that there is a much higher chance of a christian being moral than an atheist because the learn more about the bible, trust in it more, believe they have a reason to act good, and are more forgiving."

Does learning more about the Bible really make you more moral? I provided examples that sometimes the Bible isn't a very good guide and, even by your own admittance, promotes morality by threatening hell as an alternative which isn't a healthy motivation for truly moral behavior. This whole claim that Christians are more forgiving is the most recent addition to a bunch of generalities/assumptions that you have made this debate. Debates are two opposing views arguing their respective claims through the use of supporting facts and claims. If you'd rather not use a statistic, thats fine, but please use something! An anecdote, analogy, personal observation, anything! You can't just assert something without any factual context, it just serves to undermine your credibility.

I look forward to your final round. I can only hope you don't introduce any drastically new arguments but at the same time I think you have no other choice. Either way I hope the voters see your claims for what they are, generalities used to rationalize degradation for a group of people.

Its been a pleasure - good luck on future debates. I hope we can debate again soon!

-connor
tmac15689

Pro

tmac15689 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
25 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by schoolglutton 6 years ago
schoolglutton
This whole golden rule idea wasn't invented by the Christians, by the way. Does this quote from Confucius who lived around 500 BCE resemble anything?: "Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself."

They don't get credit for inventing the golden rule and they don't get credit for inventing morality.
Posted by arrivaltime 6 years ago
arrivaltime
Connor I love to read your debates! Thanks especially for this one!
Posted by Mangani 6 years ago
Mangani
I believe religion is the root and perpetrator of much of the world's immorality, ie. the subjugation of women, racial superiority (Jews are the "chosen" people of a benevolent God?), religious intolerance, etc. etc. etc.
Posted by killa_connor 6 years ago
killa_connor
Thanks a lot guys! This is a topic thats important and personal to me. The whole perceived link between religion and morality needs to be questioned and I hope this debate did that.
Posted by longjonsilver 6 years ago
longjonsilver
(I didn't read a good portion of this debate some this claim could be trite. Sorry if it is.)

Sometimes I tell people that, because I'm an atheist and I generally do the right thing, I'm more moral than they are. I do the right thing purely because it's the right thing. Religious people need the threat and/or reward of a deity to convince them to be moral.
Posted by aaeap2 6 years ago
aaeap2
I like killa's style a lot.
Posted by Mangani 6 years ago
Mangani
Connor, that was a masterful debate!
Posted by brittwaller 6 years ago
brittwaller
"It is just a better chance that a christian will have a better moral foundation that that of an atheist. I'm not gonna throw statistics in your face to seem good."
You don't have to, because the opposite of what you are saying stands to reason by probability alone: Which group commits more "immoral" acts, both in absolute and relative numbers? Christians, because there are so many more of them. Your definition of "true Christian" is irrelevant; what is relevant is that so many people define (pigeonhole?) themselves as Christians. Atheists and/or secular humanists define morality first, for themselves, outside of theistic influences, and go from there. There is bound to be some overlap, of course, because morality is a universal. Unless tmac is implying that the Hebrews did not know that murder was wrong before the Ten Commandments allegedly came along?

Good job, connor.
Posted by artC 6 years ago
artC
Sorry, I got so pissed off that I skipped a lot of the rest of the debate. Yes I am definitely shooting for law school. You?
Posted by killa_connor 6 years ago
killa_connor
gack (sorry for the "quack" slip up) - You assume that people will vote using their own personal convictions. I hope thats not the case!

art -Yeah that whole thing is really weird. How many secular humanists are running around believing in God anyway? Cause it seems like that what his whole is depending on. Because if these "moral secular humanists" aren't overwhelmingly atheist, then what else? The whole philosophy lends itself to atheism, agnoticism, and arguably Buddhism. I tried to address that in the end of my first long paragraph in round 3... By the way! I noticed that you're a philosophy and political science double major, which is awesome because thats exactly what I'm shooting for. Law school in the picture for you?
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