What stops atheists from committing crimes?

by Ward Chanley

We’ve developed conscience and empathy because it helps to ensure our survival.

We’re a social species. We organize into social groups, and conscience and empathy are useful at maintaining cohesion in those groups.

It’s not at all surprising that natural selection would have selected for those traits, if they made some groups of humans more successful than others.

There’s no reason to presume empathy or conscience come from supernatural beings. You may believe that they did, and that’s fine, but belief isn’t the same as evidence.

Atheists (in general) don’t commit crimes because we don’t want to.

Either we don’t want the likely punishment that will come from having committed the crime, or more importantly, we have empathy for other people, and we simply don’t want to harm them or cause them to suffer – because we understand why suffering sucks.

We experience it, ourselves, and we can understand it in others.

That’s what empathy is.

As is so often the case for these kinds of questions that I’m forced to remind people that if the only thing that keeps people from raping, stealing, and killing are prohibitions against those things in their selected religious text, then that’s not morality.

That is simply obedience.

And it is a much more flexible thing.

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