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Because I get asked this a lot - Clark S. Cox
Because I get asked this a lot

People often have trouble believing that you can be moral and non-religious at the same time—as if morals can only come from religion. I am a moral person, and I am an atheist. I do not believe in God; I do not believe in an afterlife; I do not believe in a soul.

Upon hearing that, many people follow up with something along the lines of: Well, if you don't believe in God, what keeps you from stealing, killing, etc.?

Because it makes rational sense to be moral:

  1. I like existing. I really like existing. Death means more to someone who believes that there is nothing afterwards. Life is all I have, and once that is gone, I don't exist any more. I want to continue existing.
  2. If I were alone, and never cooperated with other people, existing comfortably (or at all) would be difficult, if not impossible, as all of my time and energy would be devoted to finding food and water, and fighting off predators and competition. Therefore cooperation is good.
  3. If I want other people to cooperate with me, there are essentially two ways I can elicit that cooperation:
    • Force them; show them that you will cause them harm if they do not cooperate.
    • Entice them; show them that things will be better if they do cooperate.
    If I force them, then a large part of their energy will be focused on removing the threat (i.e. me), which is counterproductive, and, for obvious reasons, potentially dangerous to me. Additionally, a large part of my energy would have to go towards enforcing the threat; this is also wasteful. If, on the other hand, I entice them, and show them that the relationship is beneficial to the both of us, all of that energy that would have otherwise gone into fighting for and against my threat can now be channeled into more constructive endeavors. Everyone wins.

This is how I can be a moral person while simultaneously disbelieving in God.