You tell your child to go and rake the leaves for the elderly neighbour with the offer that you’ll pay your child $20 to do it.
You tell your child to go and rake the leaves for the elderly neighbour with the warning that if they don’t, you’ll spank them (or ground them, if you wish).
You tell your child to go and rake the leaves for the elderly neighbour with the suggestion “because that would be a nice thing to do”.
In which of these scenarios do we think we’ve built the most character and instilled the best values in the child? As a loving parent, which of those approaches would you rather be successful with your child?
Yet, when people of faith often engage in “debates” with atheists, they’ll often suggest that atheists have no moral basis or are immoral or even ask questions like “then why don’t you just rape and steal” (yes, literally that phrase or one close to it).
That atheists clearly do great things and because atheists believe in no sky-daddy punishment or reward, the only other possibility is that atheists do good for the sake of doing good. Atheists, it must be argued, are the moral ones and, as we continue to demonstrate the case, we must retake the claim to the moral high ground.
(And because people will want to say “What about Stalin or Pol Pot?”, let me quickly address it – being an atheist and doing something because of atheism is not the same thing. Being a Christian and doing things because you believe the Christian faith demands it of you are also different. It is important to remember that atheism has no doctrine and is not a belief in something – it is exactly the opposite of belief.)