Alonzo Fyfe’s Alternative Answer to “Where Do Atheists Get Their Morality?”

Back in 2008 Alonzo Fyfe blogged about the question, “Where do atheists get their morality?” As an alternative to “the standard attempt to defend some moral theory,” he proposes the following answer.

“A lot of theists want to know where atheists get their morality because theists are bigots looking for an excuse to hate their atheist neighbors, and ‘You are morally inferior to us’ has long been a favorite dehumanization technique of the hateful bigot. Clearly, atheists do quite well when it comes to behaving morally, at least as well as their Christian counterparts. It may be natural to express some curiosity as to why this is the case. But to cast atheists as morally inferior in order to generate a reason to hate them – that’s not a course that a truly moral person would ever pursue.”

I’m not sure I can endorse this response, at least not in all cases. It assumes that the only reason someone would ask that question is bigotry, which seems false to me. It’s easy to imagine how someone thinking through the issues for the first time could genuinely wonder about the source of atheist morality, without in any way trying to suggest that atheists are morally inferior.