An atheist society

I assume many Atheists long for the day when a society would be universally populated by Atheists.  Maybe they cherish the thought of never having to hear about God in the public square, or have to deal with those pesky religious people always thumping their religious books scornfully in their direction.  Ahh… paradise.

But seriously, I’m curious as to what this society would look like, particularly when it comes to rights.

  • What would be considered a right?
  • How would rights be determined (i.e., by what process and line of reasoning)?  By vote? By elected representatives?
  • Would there be some rights that just are, and not up for debate?  If so, how are those recognized?  What is done about disagreement?
  • By what means would the rights be protected?
  • Would they be inalienable, or re-prescribed over time?

As you can see, how rights are determined, supported, and enforced would need to be discussed.  My concern comes from my inability to see how rights flow from Atheism — at least in any manner which isn’t arbitrary and subjective.  Heck, I can’t even see how morality itself is even arrived at on Atheism (Who Needs Morality?, Good Move, Sir, From Which Worldview Does Human Equality Naturally Flow?).  But I’m not arguing these here.  I’d just like to know how you, the Atheist, believe a wholly Atheist society would approach rights.


  1. Welcome to that country. The US was founded as a secular nation with secular government based on the best interests of the people. And that includes free expression (not free infliction) of religion.

    It would be exactly the same as we have now except people don’t have credibility just because they claim to be speaking for god or because they claim to have the true, right interpretation of their scripture. The implication in your article is that someone can pick up the Bible and know right from wrong. It’s just not true. Christians argue about war, homosexuality, charity, marriage, and even murder. Point all your questions at Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics, Mormons, Unitarians, Baptists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and the rest – all of whom disagree on basically everything. That’s why we have separation of church and state – a secular government. Pray on your time, but when we’re working together, it’s important that we act on our behalf, not quibble about whose interpretation of scripture is right.

    And also, people can freely choose whether they believe or not. It would be nice if everyone would accept the science they don’t like (evolution, gay mental health, sex education) along with the science they do like (computers, cell phones, chemotherapy). That would create an atheist society, but no atheist I know would legislate such a thing. But anyway, the important thing is that we have a secular government in which the leaders representing society make decisions best for society not decisions their priest told them to make or decisions based on their personal interpretation of their scripture. Draw inspiration from scripture if you like, but decisions must be made to improve society.

    In the end, all your cultural relativism questions are best turned at religion because religion is the most common expression of cultural relativism.

    • That’s how ignorant you are. Do you remember my post quoting the earliest American governing documents promoting Christianity? None of that counts, right?

      I want to know how rights would be determined from an atheist community, Cmon, let’s quit with the diversions. If you actually want to address the questions in the post, great. If not, why even waste the time?

  2. He did address them, and did a pretty good job of it.

    • Actually, JA, he prattled on about the religious people and religions. Then about how people can choose that. Read the above questions then quote Torpy where he responded to the question.

      • He didn’t respond to each one specifically, but he did say that it wouldn’t be a whole lot different. America was founded on freedom of religion, but to also keep it separate from the government.

        Personally, I think many aspects of life would be better, because religion is based on lies and control through fear. It’s a cancer that needs to be treated with education.

  3. It would appear that “complicated speculation” is a bit too much to ask for.

  4. Alex Jones says:

    I proposed once to Atheists that the future population of Mars should be religion free, they rejected this as censorship. Though Atheists disagree with religion they favour freedom of speech. As to how to determine a way forward, create a set of standards, and use democracy to vote disagreeable people into exile.

    • Alex

      I get the impression that you and others are understanding my post to mean something like: “let’s let atheists go into some town and take over”.

      What I’m saying is plop a society of atheists into a new arena untouched by any other civilization. So given this new out of the box civilization, how do you go about establishing what are rights and how to implement and protect them

      Keep in mind that democracies have not prevented deprivation of rights.

      • Alex Jones says:

        Mars then is a good experimental Atheist utopia. Simple, create proposals, debate them and vote on them. Let Darwins Theory of Evolution through the democratic vote decide all outcomes.

        • Alex

          So you believe that a survival of the fittest approach would best secure human rights, and then let people vote on it? what’s could go wrong?

          what about Darwinian theory prescribes what one should do, and why? If I’m remembering correctly, weeding out the weak and defenseless is what the evolutionary theory and survival of the fittest would encourage. Sort of a natural eugenics.

          • Alex Jones says:

            This is how it works in nature, it is good enough for creating a new society for Atheists.

            Start from zero and chaos, a thousand minds over a period of time can organise a set of proposals, debate them and form them into a set of laws.

            Rights requires an authority to create and enforce them. Until the Atheists have agreed their laws there is no rights. As to the authority, that is the democracy of the many, voting on all things. The loser, the minority will be exiled.

            There is no perfect system, in all of history every system as been tried and found to be lacking. In making the choice of what system would be best it has always been better to follow what nature is doing, for nature is wiser than mankind.

            • Alex

              Appreciate you at the very minimum trying to engage the thought experiment. Too many people chimed in and answered the questions they think I should have asked. Thank you for the intellectual honesty

  5. Reblogged this on Ferlans and commented:
    I once talked to my English professor about rights. She was a non-theistic liberal feminist. She had given us an article to read about oppression which I was strongly unsatisfied with. After class, I approached her and told her that the article had not shown supported its claims well because it did not use the correct definition of oppression i.e. denying someone something that they have a right to. She disagreed with my definition for a while before she saw my point.
    Finally, she said, “You’ve convinced me. We can’t talk about oppression until we talk about rights. That raises a problem. Who decides what rights we have?”
    I hadn’t even known I was trying to convince her of something. All I knew was that there was something wrong with what she was saying. And since the teacher is always right, it created something of a painful cognitive dissonance in me that I was trying to dispel.
    I shrugged at her question. I did realize that in her reality, rights would have to be assigned by somebody (like the way the constitution of the US assigns rights to its subjects) and I saw that those rights would be authoritative in the same way they would be if assigned by God.

    So, I shrugged and replied, “God decides”.

    Of course she disagreed, but she didn’t provide another solution to the conundrum. I still haven’t gotten an answer. That’s why I’m reblogging this post. Like John, I honestly want answers to these questions.

  6. An atheist friend I was debating with one time (if the term could even be used – hard to debate with someone who rejects all differing opinons outright) who claimed that rights and morals were whatever society decided they were – basically, majority rules. She was completely oblivious to any potential problems with that notion.

  7. A couple of semi serious thoughts.
    1. I know John didn’t suggest this, but I’m not sure an atheist society would necessarily organize itself according to some Darwinian model.

    2. It seems like a society organized around Darwinian principles would, of necessity, lack the respect for the minority built into societies underpinned by other principles.

  8. “Let Darwin’s Theory of Evolution through the democratic vote decide all outcomes.”
    Not sure if Alex is still around, but I think it’s very important to put some parameters around this. Social Darwinism is discredited as it leads to euthenasia and fascism. This is the idea of legislating biological ‘survival of the fittest’. Bad news all around because it creates diabolical outcomes. The downfall is that random selection in Darwin’s theory prefers the best genes to perpetuate the species and others die out. Social Darwinism is very disconnected from the human-based rational ethics that allow us as humans to elevate ourselves above the state of nature.

    Crowdsourcing ideas and allowing the best ideas to bubble to the top in a free market of ideas whereby criticisms and dissent are encouraged rather than silenced is a good way. In this sense, one can imagine an idea like a gene (aka meme) moving through society and adapting so that it is more survivable over time. But it is reason, not natural selection, that allows us to see mutated pathogens and cull them out. Drug-resistant malaria is a result of modern-day evolution. We can take a moment to appreciate its power from an evolutionary standpoint, but we must prefer instead the less-adaptable, less-resistant humans who, without our medical intervention, will die from exposure.

    Alex dropped by for a drive-by and dropped in a juicy bit of social Darwinism for JB to chew on, but as I’ve explained many times in the past and in this post, Darwinism is an explanation of biology not a model for sociology or politics.

    • JT

      I see you are able to recognize that an Atheist worldview operating from an atheistic structure leads to atrocity. At least you see that some kind of transcendence needs to be imported.

      A rather candid admission on your part, even if it’s unintentional.

  9. JB
    Doesn’t your religion have some restrictions against bearing false witness? If you interpret your Bible to allow lying about what others say, then I can help explain why you shouldn’t be honest.

  10. Neil C. Reinhardt says:

    Hey John

    The FACTS are MOST of the Many Millions of Americans who are now Atheists, WERE Christians. So we have been where you are and we left it behind.

    Next, while we OPEN Atheists are some 5% (or more) of the US population, we are LESS than 1/4 of 1 % those in US Prisons.
    This while you god believers make up the other 99.975%

    And the facts are
    you Christians are around 75% of those in US Prisons!

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