In my fundamentalist upbringing I was warned to stay clear of atheists. As an adult I now have many atheist friends. They have not lured me to Satan-worship as I was warned that they would. Nor have they sought to harm my soul and convince me that god doesn’t exist as was cautioned. Instead I have learned that they are ordinary people who go about living their lives in the same manner and with the same compassionate effort toward family and friends as I do. And yes, I am aware of atheists who belittle and hatefully accost believers, but they are not included in my personal circle of friends and neither are fanatic religious people.
When the discussions of morals and whether or not morality is the providence of God starting becoming a topic on forums I decided to evaluate the differences between my Christian and atheist friends. Having observed their moral tendencies for a while now I find that my conversations with my atheist friends often have a more moral undertone than conversations that I have with some of my other friends who profess to be Christians. My atheist friends are more likely to treat others with greater respect which causes me to wonder what encourages some of my Christian friends to be less tolerable of others. And it makes me consider that the atheists that I personally know often promote more the message of Christ, not by their words but by their actions.
Yet many of my Christian friends, and even members of my own family will tell me the atheist is bound for hell because he has not professed Jesus and denies God. I don’t subscribe to the traditional hell doctrine; but even so, I don’t think the atheists I know hate the idea of God per se, but I believe they despise the hypocrisy that Christianity has come to represent to them and they deny the dogma of a religious myth too fanatical for them to believe. To paraphrase one of my atheist friends, “I simply don’t need any kind of god or ancient tribal practices in my life. My spirituality is my sense of humanity. I have this one life and I will use my allotment of time in this negligible existence to live as peacefully with others as I can. I don’t need a deity to tell me that I should do it.”
I don’t see some of my Christian friends thinking in this same way. What I see from them is that no matter what they do or how badly they treat others they will be forgiven through grace and profession and will have an eternal life in the kingdom of god. When it comes to morality and the fair and equitable treatment of others they talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
It reminds me of a question I once heard asked: Who does more the will of the Father…the son who denies the authority of his father but does as his father requested anyway; or the son who says, “yes father” but refuses to do as his father requested?
When I look at the comparative lifestyles of my friends, both atheist and believers, I can’t say that morals are the product of only those who profess a belief in God. But I can conclude that morals represent the commandment to love one another, and what the mouth professes does not always reveal the truth of the soul.