Atheism and Morality

Hello all!!

I was recently talking with my sister (who walked away from the faith and became an atheist) about Christianity and atheism. During that conversation I brought up that atheism has no rational grounds for morality, that morality comes from God, and that He implanted a sense of morality within us. She countered with essentially this: That morality evolved to help us survive together when our ancestors lived in tribes and such. That over time, we developed a moral compass that helps us survive, because if we’re good to each other then that will help humanity survive, and she believes survival is the ultimate purpose of the human race. So, drawing from Ravi’s argument of goodness + evil = a moral law = a moral lawgiver, which is God, she believes that the moral lawgiver is the need to survive, which then caused us to form a sense of morality in which people are valuable (as a tangent, she also said that people are valuable because they are the same species as us, and as such have intrinsic worth to other humans). Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of a rebuttal to this and I’m in need of an answer.
Thank you all, and please pray for my sister, that God will bring her back to Him in His perfect timing.


One thing that you might ask is how do we square the last 100 years of man’s inhumanity to man?

I like the idea of cooperation and intrinsic worth, but history does not agree. Even if we throw out everything historical and only keep the last 50 years what evidence can we find to backup the idea that we have better people which should be the results of a worldview that supports the idea that we are evolving? Even the use of word better becomes problematic because it implies that there is a good and if there is a good who will define it or how will we recognize it? Certainly not by random chance.

I know that it difficult and painful to minister to a family member, but have you ever asked your sister what she believed about God before she walked away? This might be a good place to engage her in a loving conversation not to challenge her but to point her back to the cross. God bless your efforts and give you both Grace.


I remember reading a response in a Topic here that is similar to what you are asking. You can click on that topic and read some very insightful responses.

Dennis Prager points out a flaw in a “need” to survive. I could not find the column so I am not quoting verbatim but it went something like this…“How do you reconcile the “need to survive” with someone who risked their life for a Jew (by hiding them in their home) during the Holocaust? If survival is the ultimate purpose then why would anyone risk their life to save another?”
I also remember a quote from Ravi,

“In some countries you love your neighbors, and in others you eat them.”

― Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God

Here some other resources that may help.

If morals evolve then why has __ “The 20th century become the bloodiest century in history.”__


My thought is that if morality has evolved, and I assume is continuing to evolve, how do we know if our morality is up-to-date? How would we know if our ideas of good and bad are behind or are ahead of the standard if it is ever changing? And if we can call something good today and bad tomorrow, can we call that action objectively good or bad? Take for example stealing. If we can call stealing bad today but potentially good tomorrow, can we really call stealing objectively good or objectively bad? And if the standard is constantly changing, how can we have any moral progress? The idea of progress implies a standard that is fixed. Society cannot move toward a better and more moral version of itself if the standard is constantly being ripped out from under its feet. So the idea of evolution or evolving morals does not necessarily imply we are progressing toward some better version. All it implies is that we and our morals are merely changing.

I’d also be curious to see how she feels about martyrdom. If our sole purpose is to survive, how does she feel about those who are willing to forgo their survival for a loved one? Are their actions good? Are they bad? What about Jesus? He not only forwent his survival for his friends, but also for his enemies.


Cordial greetings dearly beloved Sister in Christ Shimmy,

I just prayed for you and your sister that God will restore her to Himself. Please do not be anxious or worried about your sister. I empathize with you. you see, both my son and daughter who have desired to even go to seminary; now have nothing to do with our Savior and King, our Lord Jesus Christ.

First, Let me say that her views are understandable and correct for her. I am sure you are familiar with " 1 Corinthians 2:14 New King James Version (NKJV) But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned". Therefore, without the Salvation of God who grants peace to mankind through the Holy Spirit of God; one cannot and will not grasp God’s moral absolute.

Second, I am also sure you should be very familiar with " Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Finally, I say this " 1 John 2:19 King James Version (KJV) They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. Consequently, I am in accord with you; that we should continue to pray for our love ones to have an encounter with Jesus, the restorer of souls. And yes, in His time, He makes all things beautiful. He will make a way, even when there seems to be no way. He will make a way for you and for me.


I’m so sorry to hear about our dilemma. There are people I love in my life that also are atheist and really don’t have the savvy and patience that Ravi has with talk with them. I just pray that God will eventually work through them and bring them back. I feel that science has a way of twisting theory and making it fact or real. Because of my experience with God and Jesus of what they’ve done for me in my life is fact. Through Bible reading, fasting and prayer I see that we can only love and live as a example so people who don’t believe will see how you shine. Then they will also want what you have. “God” There is no need to rebuttal what she believes it’s unforturnate for her because Satan is twisting and telling our love ones lies like in the Garden of Eden. I will pray for your sister, God bless you.

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Thanks for the post. It is heart wrenching to have a sibling who has rejected Christianity. I feel for you. I will pray for you both. I am not sure I would take her on with a tit for tat rational argument. I find that most people are really not very rational and are also very deceptive in matters of the heart. Could there be an emotional reason for rejecting Christianity that she is now supporting with a rational argument? What was the reason she rejected the Faith? Was she hurt by a Christian or the Church or have a close friend who was hurt? Fortunately you have far more than a rational argument. You have a Person to share and that Person can overcome any objection. I think I would just love her and share Jesus with her and what Jesus has done for you, but not in a preaching sense. Spend time with her, pray for her, have friends and family pray for her and you. Be patient. The one who started a good work in her will finish the work in His time.

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I have some thoughts that might be helpful, assuming your sister is at a place where rational conversation is helpful. If she’s at a place where reasoning won’t be helpful to her, then my girlfriend says to buy her ice cream and take her to the spa!

Here are the thoughts:

  1. If evolutionary fitness is what determines which traits become dominant, then the process of evolving morality is actually fairly complicated. A single individual with a moral code, in a group of other individuals without a moral code, is actually at a disadvantage, not an advantage. (For example, the moral individual shares its food, but no one else does, so the moral individual ends up starving to death.) Because the moral individual is at a disadvantage, this moral code would tend to be selected against and die out, rather than be selected for and spread throughout the population. In his book The Selfish Gene Dawkins presents a model for how a moral code could be selected for, instead of against, but this model is really complicated and involves a lot of things happening just right–even more so than evolutionary explanations for the selection of standard biological traits (like eyeballs).

  2. I think it might be good to ask questions to understand exactly what your sister means by “morality.” Does she mean moral sentiments and impulses, or moral realities that go beyond our thoughts and feelings? When she says “morality” is she talking about things that would be right and wrong, regardless of whether anyone thinks so?
    If she’s talking about moral sentiments and impulses, I think that the evolutionary account might work (even if it’s incredibly improbable, it seems to make conceptual sense). But if she’s talking about more than our psychological impulses, I can’t see how the evolutionary account works. From an evolutionary perspective, our evolution has given us all sorts of impulses–impulses to eat certain sorts of food, to prefer mates with certain characteristics, etc. We can recognize these impulses without being bound to follow them–there’s nothing wrong with choosing a mate who does not meet the evolutionary definition of what is most attractive.
    Not only is there nothing wrong with ignoring certain evolutionary impulses, we actually often feel morally obligated to go against our evolutionary impulses. Dawkins writes:

“My own feeling is that a human society based simply on the gene’s law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. . . . [If] you would extract a moral from [this book], read it as a warning. Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature. Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to.”
The Selfish Gene, pg. 3

Here, Dawkins is arguing for a morality that goes against our evolutionary heritage, so it can’t be derived from it.

Even if evolution can explain how we got our psychological impulses, I don’t see how it can explain morality in a way that can pass judgement on our psychological impulses. This is the type of morality is what Dawkins is advocating, and it might be what your sister is talking about.

One thing that might also be helpful is to distinguish the evolution of morality from the evolution of our biological traits. You can probably accept the evolution of our bodies but still believe that a moral law giver is necessary to explain morality. To a certain extent, these are two separate questions. So, if I was talking with your sister, my instinct would be to not try to disprove evolution as a whole, but to just say that there are some things (like morality that goes beyond our psychology), that evolution can’t explain.

I hope that’s helpful, and let me know if discussing this more would be useful!