How do Athiests Stack Up? (Morally)?

I suspect that most athiests are very intelligent people, who have a highly developed moral sense. So, probably, most people who are athiestd probably have a very low rate of criminal activity. How do they compare with religious types? Anyone have any statistics o this?
I’d be curious to know what the incarceration rate for athiests is-versus religious.

I don’t think they check what religion you are when you are arrested or incarerated… at least not in the US.

The problem is that “atheist” describes what a person ***doesn’t ***believe, not what he ***does ***believe. There’s no reason why a serial killer or terrorist can’t be an atheist.

They’re on top, above the athier and the merely athy.

I’m no expert, but I found an interesting discussion here. Suffice it to say it’s a more complex question than it appears on the surface.

Here’s something agreeing with you, although it is done on a broader scale - countries with less religious populations see less crime. Correllation != causation, of course, but it’s worth noting:

Let me start by saying that I am a card-carrying atheist (not literally of course) as are my wife and children. Not that we did anything to make it explicit, god was never mentioned in our household. I think we are all fine, moral, upstanding, etc. While some religious people will kill for their beliefs, I would be surprised to find that the average serial killer, say, or rapist, had any belief in god. Of course, they are probably not atheist in my sense of having given it some thought and then concluded they could not believe in god. Since on average they have not given much thought to anything.
What I would actually expect is that, on average, atheists are neither more nor less moral than other people.

On the other hand, most of the greatest mass murderers in history were atheists. Cite.

A high degree of religious practice seems to correlate with many or most positive social outcomes - lower rates of depression, personal happiness, lower divorce rates, greater likelihood to avoid poverty, lower crime rates, etc. (Cite.).


I think that’s a pretty dubious cite. Saying that “most mass murders were Atheists” and then linking to a article about murderous political regimes is more than a little misleading. Those fundamentalist leftist leaders probably never killed a single person directly and I don’t think fascist totalitarian regimes are in the scope of what the OP is discussing.

Your second citation is blatantly politically motivated.

Assuming you’re looking at the “9 greatest mass murderers” list, I would argue that the most interesting implication of the list is not that people like Josef Stalin were atheists, but that they were politicians. After all, only 5 of the 9 were atheists, while 9 of the 9 were politicians and 9 of the 9 were also soldiers/military leaders. 9 of the 9 were also leaders in the mid-to-late 20th century (but I would hardly use that information to claim that mid-to-late 20th century people are less moral than people from other times.)
I think panache45 has made an extremely important point here - categorizing people based on what they don’t believe is very different from categorizing people based on what they have chosen to believe. Someone who just doesn’t believe in God is different from someone who is a humanist, for example.

Eh, I agree that that’s so, but disbelief is still a trait which can be seen to be shared. Categorizing people based on what they don’t believe is pretty much the same as categorizing people based on what they do in my book.

Thread move in 3…2…1…

Oh, and atheists are vile, vile heathens who are all damned to the especially HOT part of hell, reserved for the likes of Natalie Portman, Monica Bellucci, and Hayden Panettiere.

Would you say that the group of things not red is a useful category?

Yes, it is. For example, we may use the group of things not red to examine the effects of red rags on a bull. If a bull reacts similarly to red things as it does to not red things, we might conclude that it’s reacting to the movement, and not the redness.

Although this is potentially a GQ, given most of the comments so far I don’t think this can really stay out of GD. Thanks to Jenaroph and Wooden Taco, for attempting to provide GQ answers.

Moving to GD.

General Questions Moderator

Never heard of Hayden Panettiere before…then Google…then DAMN!

Besides the occasional studies showing that atheists/agnostics tend to be more moral and compassionate, there’s the argument that “morality” is incompatible with the standard religious view that you are supposed to do what “God” wants you to. That you are supposed to base your “morality” on rules laid out by God. The problem with that, and why I used the quotes is that if you do that you aren’t being moral at all; just obedient. In my view, very few religious people are moral, regardless of how they are behaving at the moment because they are motivated by obedience to authority not morality ( and would cheerfully do evil if ordered by that authority ), and because they cannot make rational judgments as to right or wrong because they base their decisions on delusions. If they happen to be doing something good at the moment, that’s because they haven’t been told to do evil, not because they are moral; that’s an innate flaw in basing your “morality” on what “God” ( aka your religious leaders ) tells you to do.

Why ? A religious person has an excuse for his behavior that an atheist lacks, and is operating on a delusional worldview that makes it easy to justify anything at all. It’s to be expected that they’d be more likely to be serial killers and rapists than atheists ( and probably proud of what they are doing as well; it’s God’s Will after all ).

Not to mention, we don’t get a “Get Out of Hell Free” card. We have no one to apologize to but ourselves and those we affect. And no one to ask forgiveness of either. I won’t even go in to the whole "who the fuck can live with themselves thinking that they are born sinners and the best they can hope for is to beg some being for forgiveness for something they can’t help.

Since we are in Great Debates, I’ll throw this out there. Similar to Sarah Palin, our expectations are abysmally low, so when we do the right thing, we get more credit. :slight_smile: I know when I was a Christian, no one ever accused me of lacking morals. Now that I lack a god, I get that a lot more often.

I don’t think I am any more or less moral than the next person, but I do consider myself the lightning rod for all my religious friends. They know standing next to me, they are pretty safe. :slight_smile:

That’s a pretty weak cite. Most of the statistics lack citations, and the ones that do are grossly misleading. For instance:

Of course, the author neglects to put these numbers in their proper context. Each of those “systematic reviews” is exclusively dealing with healthcare, first of all - the “positive benefits” are referring to correlations between religiosity and lifespan. The first article cited, “Is Frequent Religious Attendance Really Conducive to Better Health?: Towards an Epidemiology of Religion” is from 1987 and sets up Heritage’s argument as a straw man - the authors argue that the literature indicating positive benefits from religion suffer from “several pervasive epistemological, methodological, and analytical problems” and construct alternative explanations. The other two citations for the quoted portion suffer from similar problems and deal with connections between “spirituality” and psychiatric health.
The article doesn’t get any less misleading. Dr. Fagan’s citations on family stability rely on self-reporting of happiness, a technique which was outdated decades ago and has obvious methodological flaws. Many of the articles cited on the increase in civic engagement are extremely outdated - some go as far back as thirty years, even though the crisis in civic engagement has only spiked in the past decade or so (amidst a resurgence in religiosity). The marital satisfaction cites he provides are from 1957 and 1977. None of the cites I looked into address populations outside of the United States.
I’d go on, but frankly it’s not worth anyone’s time. Dr. Fagan consistently cites surveys of old literature and virtually never gives causal explanations to his claims. Given his political background and that of Heritage, one can only assume this is deliberate.

My completely unscientific personal experience and observation is that people who are raised without religion are generally more moral and ethical than those who are raised to believe in a God that judges.

Again, no science, but I believe it is because a moral and ethical code that is based internally is inherently more sound and trustworthy than a code imposed from outside. People who behave well because they believe in it for themselves and because they believe in it for the society they live in and because they want to be a part of it are way ahead.

I thought we went to Secular Heaven. :confused:

But your idea works just as well.

Edit: We also have to define religious a bit. For example, is someone who vaguely believes in God, but hasn’t gone to church in years, and doesn’t think about it unless it’s brought up still religious? They believe in God so they’re not agnostic or atheist, but they’re sorta “meh” about the whole thing, so it’s not really fair to put their morality on par with someone who breathes the bible.