It’s a frequent claim that atheists have no basis for morality. This generally gets turned into “atheists don’t believe in anything” or “atheists are immoral”. Generally speaking, people sometimes believe that atheists are being illogical if they are anything other than immoral. While it’s debatable whether I’m a “strict” atheist (as opposed to simply being somewhat agnostic or merely believing the world’s religions are all false), I would say that I have no belief that a God is going to punish anyone for being immoral. I don’t really believe any God cares whether people are moral, either. And, no, I don’t believe in karma. So, what’s my basis for morality? My own morality is based mostly on empathy. I don’t like be hurt, and I don’t like to see other people hurt, either. As Abraham Lincoln said, “When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.” I have no belief that I will ever be punished or rewarded by supernatural beings for anything that I do. Nevertheless, I have a strong sense of right and wrong, and the guilt that goes along with it. (BTW, do believers do right and wrong because they’re afraid of supernatural punishment or disapproval?)
In fact, I was at a store just a few hours ago. The woman at the register rang up my purchases (one $12 item, one $40 item). The price came out to around $24. I thought, “Gee, that’s odd. Was the $40 item on clearance or something?” When she handed the receipt to me, I took a quick look at it and discovered the error – she had rang up the $12 item twice, and the $40 was not there at all. I would’ve felt extremely guilty walking out of the store, and I quickly pointed out the error to her. She thanked me for my integrity, and I paid the extra money. Why did I do that? Because I knew it wasn’t right to stay silent about the error – even though it was her error. I can’t strictly say that was a case of empathy (the company would’ve never “felt” the loss, no actual person was harmed), but I would’ve felt very guilty about it nevertheless. But, being the “godless, immoral unbeliever” that I am, who would’ve thought I’d do that?
“I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation… Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God.” – Albert Einstein