A Code of Ethics for the American Atheists

by Dr. Terry Mortenson on February 18, 2014

Over the years the American Atheists have been having some serious problems with social behavior at their national convention. So they have developed a code of conduct for the 2014 conference. It is interesting to observe the things they tolerate (e.g., many kinds of sexual immorality) and the things they will not tolerate (e.g., lack of social etiquette). It should also be noted that Christian conventions do not need to post such a code of conduct because the attendees have been redeemed by the grace of God and gladly submit to His code of conduct in the Bible.

But in an atheist worldview, these atheists have no basis for this code. In their view there is no God and therefore no moral absolutes. William Provine, a prominent American atheist evolutionist and professor at Cornell University, put it this way:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear. . . . There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.1

Richard Dawkins, England’s most influential atheist evolutionist similarly said the following:

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.2

So we are all just animals and it is the law of the jungle, the survival of the fittest. Animals don’t show the social decencies required in the atheists’ code. So why should people? This code is completely arbitrary. Certainly the American Atheists are free to make this code for their conventions. But their worldview isn’t the source of these rules.

In a related news item, the University of Virginia hosted a conference on February 10, 2014, involving top leaders of six secular colleges and universities to discuss the topic of sexual misconduct among college students. This is a vexing problem. Research shows that 20% of college women at secular schools have been sexually assaulted, but only 12% of the victims report the incident. But given the depravity of man and that these schools are dominated by evolutionary thinking that destroys any basis for moral absolutes, this behavior is not surprising. These educational leaders may not like this behavior, but if the students and the leaders are all just animals struggling for survival in a sea of moral relativism, who really can say that sexual assault is wrong? It’s just some people’s opinion against the opinions of others.

I fully agree that the social harassment that the American Atheists condemn and sexual assaults on college campuses or anywhere else are wrong.

So where do the moral standards come from? They come from the moral law of God, reflected in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1–17), which are written on the heart of every person, including atheists (Romans 2:14–16), because we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). But the atheist code of conduct and the new policies of these secular universities reflect only some of God’s moral laws. The LGBTQ sexual behaviors that they tolerate, and even celebrate, are very clearly condemned (along with rape, adultery, fornication and other sins) by God in His Word (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13; Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11; 1 Timothy 1:8–10). The atheists accept those sinful LGBTQ behaviors because they are denying the God that they know exists and suppressing the truth (revealed in creation and in their conscience, and in His Word) because of sin (Romans 1:18–20).

Sadly, they don’t understand that the law of God actually brings great liberty and wonderful blessing (John 8:31–32, Psalm 1:1–6, and Psalm 19:7–14). They also don’t understand that the precious blood of Christ can wash away all their sins (1 John 1:7) and restore them to a right relationship with God (Romans 5:1) and that the love and grace of God can transform our lives to truly be the wonderful kind of men and women He created us to be and which will satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts (John 10:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Pray for any atheists you know, that God would have mercy on them and show them the destructive bondage of their sin and the glorious freedom that comes from repenting and trusting in the loving Lord Jesus Christ, who died for their sins and rose from the dead to give them eternal and abundant life now and forever.


  1. William Provine, Origins Research 16, no. 1/2 (1994), 9; as quoted in Technical Journal 10, , no. 1 (1996), 22.
  2. Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1995), 133.

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