The journey from atheism to theism is different for each person who makes it. My journey began with science, then made a turn onto the path of ethics and morality. Webster’s Dictionary defines ethics as “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.” Webster’s defines morality as “a moral discourse, statement, or lesson, a doctrine or system of moral conduct.” Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary defines morality as “beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior, the degree to which something is right and good, the moral goodness or badness of something.”
As an atheist I would have argued that I was an ethical person. For example, I believed strongly in journalistic ethics and in ethical behavior as it impacted news coverage and the First Amendment. But what was the source of my ethics and ethical behavior? Did that source of ethics affect my personal life? No. I bent personal ethics to suit my selfish interests. What was the source of that behavior? same source? different source? no source?
Was it ethical to lie, cheat, steal, murder? Maybe, I thought, depending on the “situation.” Situation ethics became a mantra for me as an atheist. It fit my belief system well and allowed me to do whatever I wanted to do, without a sense of guilt. I didn’t believe in an absolute moral law or a moral law “giver,” so there was no penalty unless someone imposed their morality on me through some system of penalties that were too big for me to overcome (e.g. traffic laws, state and federal laws).
Having been an atheist and knowing many atheists through the years, I recognize that all atheists are not alike – even as all theists are not alike. I’ve known atheists who were more ethical in their thinking and behavior than I was and some who were less ethical. The issue is not quantity, but quality. What is the quality or source of one’s morality? Is it objective or subjective? situational? relational? revelational? Is there a “right” and “wrong” in every situation in life? any situation? If so, is it an absolute? a law that must be followed? If so, who says? or can it be different from one person to another, one couple to another, one family to another, one tribe to another, one nation to another? Can we differ in our definition of what is moral and immoral? right and wrong? Is what is right for you necessarily right for me? Should I have to bow to your ethical will? or am I free to determine my own moral course and follow that path to its eventual end?