Atheism in Five Minutes - Teemu Taira

Atheism in Five Minutes - Teemu Taira

53. Where Do Atheists Get Their Values?

Atheism in Five Minutes - Teemu Taira

Kyle Thompson [+-]
Harvey Mudd College and MiraCosta College
Kyle Thompson, PhD, is a philosopher whose research interests center on the intersection between philosophy and the social sciences. He teaches philosophy, religion, and writing as an adjunct instructor at various institutions, including Harvey Mudd College and MiraCosta College.


Atheists source their values from the same wellsprings that all humans do: biology, culture, and reason. Evolution equips newborns with the raw materials of morality. Culture and socialization shape and constrain the developing person’s moral sentiments. Reason can refine those values. Of course, a complex dance takes place between these broad sources—evolution, culture, reason—and there is no simple way to spell out how they bestow any human with values. The dance includes friendships, real-life mentors, fictional heroes, value-laden myths, sorrow, hugs, organized sports, late night reflection when sleep won’t arrive, DNA, the sting of unfairness when someone cuts in line, and much more. Perhaps the only place where atheists don't get their values is belief in God, which they lack. While the theist appears to have a simple answer to the origin of their values—e.g., “God” or “religion”—such responses cloak an equally complex dance of ideas and events and evolutionary heritage. In total, the question of where atheists get their values is really a question of where humans get their values.

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Thompson, Kyle. 53. Where Do Atheists Get Their Values?. Atheism in Five Minutes. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 208-211 Oct 2022. ISBN 9781800502376. Date accessed: 03 Feb 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.43339. Oct 2022

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