Atheists Can’t Live a Moral Life…Yes They Can

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“Atheists can’t live a moral life” is one of those old saws like, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Christians often say these things to prove their moral superiority You don't have to be a jerk about itto atheists. But before handing out any awards for superiority, some Christians need to reexamine their meaning of “moral”.

First, there ARE atheists in foxholes, lots of them. Pat Tillman and his brother for example. Atheists aren’t closet Christians cowering and waiting to “come clean” to God and abandon their beliefs in times of danger. To say otherwise is insulting and the height of arrogance.

And explaining to an atheist that Christians are superior because of their belief in God is silly. See, atheists don’t believe in God. We don’t see the superiority endowed by a creator that isn’t there in much the same way we do not believe a book like the Bible because we don’t believe it is the word of God.

A False Moral Equivalency

But the most ludicrous of the many God vs. Godless bon mots is that atheists cannot lead a moral life. There is zero evidence that praying and reading the Bible makes you moral. Morality exists wherever a person chooses to apply it. In fact, if you need the Bible to tell you what is moral it doesn’t speak well for your God’s ability to create sentient beings much less beings created in his image.

Take the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen in South Carolina. The nice folks at the kitchen took up the admirable challenge to feed the needy in Spartanburg. There is nothing more moral than helping your fellow man. But it seems the soup kitchen’s charity comes with strings attached.

Enter the Upstate Atheists, an organization that volunteers for charitable causes like Habitat for Humanity. They wanted to help the soup kitchen with donations of time, money, and supplies — something they do once a month.The atheists felt, as did the soup kitchen, that feeding needy people was a good and moral thing to do.

But when the atheists offered to volunteer at the kitchen, Lou Landrum, the executive director decided that turning down a clearly moral offer to feed people was the moral thing to do.

Why? Let’s let Landrum speak.

“We accept volunteer groups of all kinds,” Landrum said. “But partnering with a volunteer group whose mission is counter to the mission of the soup kitchen is something I cannot tolerate. This is from within my heart. Our ministry is to edify God and feed those that are hungry. This is a ministry to serve God… We stand on the principles of God.”

But the Godly principle of feeding poor people wasn’t the principle Landrum had in mind. She justified her rejection because she thought the atheists were “doing this for the publicity” and she made that quite clear to the erstwhile volunteers.

If an Atheist Came to a Soup Kitchen…

“The first thing she (Landrum) said is, ‘I don’t want you coming in with your atheist T-shirts and ulterior motives,’” said Eve Brannon, president of Upstate Atheists. “I said, ‘We don’t have to wear T-shirts or tell people what we’re about.’ She just wasn’t going to have it.”

In the end, the atheists held their own event and passed out 300 care packages for National Make a Difference Day, yet Landrum was still unsatisfied, “They can have the devil there with them, but they better not come across the street.”

The atheists came seeking fellowship with Christians whose beliefs they don’t share, but respect. They agreed to the kitchen’s request that they not wear T-shirts identifying their organization. When someone harassed Landrum for her stance the atheists posted on Facebook saying, “If you see anyone harassing the director of the soup kitchen, please ask them to stop. That isn’t going to solve anything.” And for their trouble, someone hacked the atheists’ website.

The atheists subscribed to the universal moral act of feeding the poor. A moral act that they and the soup kitchen agreed was important. They did this despite being rebuffed without needing the Bible to tell them to do so.

On the other hand, the soup kitchen elected to withhold help from the poor and not take a righteous, purely moral path toward their religion’s core principles. They predicated their “morality” on not just feeding the poor, but also on rejecting help because others held different beliefs, a conceit that takes some of the luster off their “moral superiority”.

In the end, the poor got their food and their care packages and that is a good day in anyone’s book. Good was done, but only in the face of opposition and fear from a group that claims to represent the benevolence of a God they believe created us and which they claim to serve.

I haven’t practiced Christianity in many years, but I have read the Bible cover-to-cover several times. I must have missed the part that says doing good is somehow conditional on who is doing the good. I hope there isn’t a part about receiving good being conditional on who the receiver is. If so, lots of poor people will go hungry.

“If an atheist came to a soup kitchen in search of a meal and God was around to hear him, would he walk away with a full belly?”

6 thoughts on “Atheists Can’t Live a Moral Life…Yes They Can

  1. Do you mean the liar Jesus? He lied when he said that believers could cure the sick by simply laying hands on them. Jesus said this right before he ascended into heaven.
    I can’t help but think if this were true, we would have less sick people (none actually) in the world and could spend all the resources currently in use in the medical field to help the less fortunate.

    Can you give me an example of an atheist preventing the “Christians from living their Christianity”?

  2. The problem with letting atheists get their foot in the door is they then file a lawsuit to stop the Christians from living their Christianity. Let the atheists start their own soup kitchen. The liar has created an abundant need for charity.

    • Joe,
      A couple of things. The atheists agreed to abide by the conditions the soup kitchen laid down and since the soup kitchen is a private organization there really isn’t a way to sue. I don’t know what other solutions they could offer, but if they did I would hope they would entertain them. None of their actions suggest they wouldn’t. I should also poiint out that several other church supported organizations in their area are happy to work with them on an ongoinig basis and none of them have had a problem of the sort you’re talking about. That suggests to me that the soup kitchen is condemming the atheists without even seriously considering their offer of help. That’s not a very Christian way to act.

      I think the point here is about your comment on Christians living Christianity. I’d argue that is precisely what they are not doing by not allowing people freely offering help to offer it. Is it the Christian thing to do to turn away those who aren’t Christian simply because they aren’t the same? Would the chruch turn away others — Muslims, Jews, Catholics, black, Asian, gay, etc. — or even the poor themselves? Would they refuse the help to a hungry atheist. If they did these things I’d argue they aren’t living a Christian way of life anyway. What happened to the Christian principle of hating the “sin” and loving the “sinner” — though none of those things are “sins” in my view.

      I don’t understand who the “liar” is in your comment or how a lie even contirbutes to a need for charity. However, that statement is true and Christians are supposed to offer charity to those who need it, does it even matter if the person did lie? Would the church turn away a Christian simply because he lied about say, having an affair? Or would they withhold charity even if the person repented.

      Joe, your argument doesn’t seem to be very logical or sound, but perhaps I misunderstand you. I invite you to clarify in case I’ve misunderstood you.

      • “The Liar” is another word for Satan, another made up entity that conveniently both explains away the evil in the world (“Satan creates poverty and misery”) and allows “good” people to place the blame for that evil outside themselves (“The Devil made me do it.”).

        It’s a way to dodge responsibility, both for the religious person AND for their invisible friend. Re-read is comment in that context and you’ll see it makes sense. Satan creates the need for charity.*

        I really think that Christians are so used to their religious privilege in this country that they fail to make any distinction between public and private spaces. The soup kitchen is a private space–folk can “hallelujah” and “amen” to their heart’s content and no one can gainsay them. On the other hand, a city-run homeless shelter is a public space and so there can be no religious bs promulgated there. They are offended and feel their rights have been violated when they’re told, “This is not the place for that sort of thing” because they are so used to EVERY space being theirs, they cannot fathom anything else.

        *Which, according to some churches is not true. In that theology, God creates the need for charity, to “test” his people and see if they will do right. I really don’t have to deconstruct how effed up THAT is, right?

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