What If Atheists Went To Confession?

As an outsider, I don’t understand how to “confess”.   Since the definition of sin changes every few years, how does one know what he did that was wrong?

There was a time when major commerce was conducted on Sunday.  That was when rurual people walked to town on Sunday to sell their produce and attended church.

Then, there were decades when it was a sin to do commerce on Sunday. Laws against it were called Blue Laws.  Homosexual relations have been sin for several lifetimes but the majority probably don’t regard it as sin today.

Catholics aren’t the only ones to have a ceremony to humble people.  Jews have a once a year event of humbling themselves to people they have wronged during the year.

I once participated in a Native American sweat lodge ceremony.  As I recall, there were three phases to that ceremony, all having to do with correcting relationships with other people.  (I have to confess I was gasping to breath from the steam and heat I can’t remember too much.)

Atheists mostly find the concept of sin to be one invented by ancient groups wanting to control others.  Those in control wanted certain behavior so they labeled nonconforming behavior as sin.  The only way to unload sin was through those with authority. Thus, if an atheist went to Catholic confession, he would have nothing to confess.

All the atheists I know want to be good people and good citizens.  So far, confession has not been needed.


70 Responses

    1. entech

      What is wrong Henry, your last few posts just seem to be be silly little niggly things, done for the sake of boredom it would seem. I will hereby ask Jon to have something about gun control or sin or gays to bring you back to life.

      1. entech 12:39 “I will hereby as Jon to have something about gun control or sin or gays to bring you back to life.”

        Maybe Henry will use this opportunity to confess some sin. I want him to know whatever it is, we all forgive him.

          1. entech

            Just read that piece.
            It really does verify a Biblical truth, the wages of sin is death.

            Bad taste I know but I couldn’t resist, I confess, the devil made me do it.

  1. H.P.Drifter

    Yes Henry what’s the matter, you haven’t been the same since Josh called you Father ? (on the airwaves)

    1. Henry

      Trust me, many things discussed are over your head. Even entech is floundering a bit tonight. I tried helping in the past, but to no avail.

      1. H.P.Drifter

        I know he was talking to you not the Pastor, over my head you will never be, under my thumb is more likely. Admit it he’s yours

        1. Henry

          HP:“I know he was talking to you not the Pastor, over my head you will never be, under my thumb is more likely. Admit it he’s yours”

          Looking back on the blog, I can find the source of your misunderstanding. Based on how you post and reply to comments and also the nesting and threading of your referenced comments (Pastor/Father/Josh), I do not believe you understand how the nesting and threading work on this blog.

  2. H.P.Drifter

    Public confessions I don’t think so, somebody somewhere would misconstrue, what you were saying. Best policy for the non believers, first admit their mistakes to themselves. Try not to repeat the same mistakes, if you have some real problems get a counselor and talk it out. If your married use your wife as a sounding board, be practical. Most non believers I know are good moral people, work hard live the simple good life. Don’t make life more complicated than it already is.


  3. Adam Heckathorn

    If I want to have My own rights respected it seems incumbent on Me to respect the rights of others. I believe To live Your Life in a moral manner requires a significant amount of thought. I once used the Bible as the foundation of that process but over time I’ve come to see that instead of looking at principles in the Bible and saying why or how is this the wise course of action People tend to say ’cause God said so. Even with forethought and the best of intentions We are all bound to misjudge things a bit and when We do I believe One should apologize and do the best one can to undue any harm caused by Ones actions. I honestly believe religion muddies this process and turns it into a kind of shell game. As an Atheist unlike someone with a religious belief My morals are more naked to the world so to speak. My Dad likes to say “when you argue with someone religious its always two against one” “God and I against You”. Religious belief takes a lot of subjects off the table, it creates black and white areas where in reality there are shades of gray. I read a letter to the paper a while back By a Man that seemed decent and His letter seemed reasonable but if You looked at it like an algebra problem and removed all You could from both sides You got; People who are Gay=People who don’t deserve access to health care. I’m pretty sure if This Gentleman and I were sitting at a lunch counter and I said “should We deny access to health care to any groups in America?” He’d say “Why no” but You add religious belief and You create this convoluted equation where People do the opposite of what They would otherwise do.

      1. Adam Heckathorn

        I just used a recent example We could use spending money to educate New Americans including Roma.

      2. Adam Heckathorn

        Strawman an informal fallacy based on the misrepresentation of the original topic of argument. OK I missed Your point but actually I think You also missed Mine. Religious People tend to let a non existent God do their thinking for Them on moral dilemmas with poor results. Which is why I put forward that Atheism is Morally superior because an atheist is more likely to consider the possibility He is wrong and to be mentally flexible.

        1. entech

          Adam, it is worth remembering that because something is not relevant to a particular point or detracts attention from it does not mean that it is not true in its own right, because it is a false argument in the red herring/strawman style does not detract from its validity in another context.
          Drawing attention to it can itself be a bit dubious in certain circumstances when it is attempted to knock down something in its entirety.

          If we take As an Atheist unlike someone with a religious belief My morals are more naked to the world so to speak. My Dad likes to say “when you argue with someone religious its always two against one” “God and I against You”. as a central point in your post, it certainly takes a central position.

          The fact that you point to, that many but by no means all Christians consider homosexuals “The Other”, as being not being quite worthy of being treated decently because of their “Choice”, that they have been taught as a matter of faith that “they are an abomination in the sight of God” does actually affect the answer to such questions. However, it cannot be stated up front that I think this because my God tells me so in his book (or at least his representative, my teacher/preacher tells me on his behalf) so it meanders around and other reasons are disguised and manipulated before being presented – pretty much as you described it as a bit like algebra fill in the code with Bible quotes and there you are.

          So bringing in a commonly used accusation against anti gay proponents could be described as a “Strawman” because so many other so called reasons and extensions can be brought to bear. However a blunt and firm cry of Strawman can often be seen as ploy to call the argument a lie instead of just irrelevant in the context of the current argument.

        1. entech

          Jon, would I be right in thinking that what you really meant was “in what way was Adam’s post a strawman fallacy”, anyone one can cut and paste a URL. What we need as I tried to show is an analysis of the problem, otherwise we run the danger of being guilty ourselves.

  4. H.P.Drifter

    LIfe in general would be so much more easy to live if people just thought for a second before they open their mouthes and said whatever came to mind. Then you won’t be discussing with your sounding board (whomever that might be) why you voiced an opinion on an emotional bases rather than using a little common sense before talking. Life is rather simple if you make it so, most people make it complex, just uttering their first words of the day. You set the mood when you do, a little common courtesy goes along way. Instill a good mood in others if you can. It can make your day a lot more productive, if you are not playing word games from the minute you get up out of bed. And that goes for people who do not sleep in beds or perhaps they hang in the closet or in some cases lie in a closed coffin until the the sun sets once again. Just thought I mention that, to include everyone on the blog (not discriminate that is) Kind words yield, kind words and constructive thoughts. Just like those that can’t follow a thread, most likely can’t sew either. Own up when it yours, no tit for tat.


    1. Henry

      HP:“LIfe in general would be so much more easy to live if people just thought for a second before they open their mouthes and said whatever came to mind.”

      Yes. Let’s start with your 2:10. As a result of that interjection, it cause you to stumble around (obambulate) from 2:10 to 3:16, a total of over one hour.

      1. noblindersonme

        gee henry- I think you could make a stronger argument if you did not resort to silly terms such as ‘ obambulate’! . Gee pat yourself on the back for that one! I guess it will go in the hall of fame of snark along with ‘ Bushisms’ and’Clintonesque’. And don’t forget the how Qualye and Reagan were mocked for verbal slippidge. Yeah we always progress as a moral society when we close the book on past presidential mockery and began anew with each suceeding leader.
        Amnesia is not a political trait a good Christian should base his beliefs on.
        Confession , Henry , is best served when we look into our own souls and face the man in the mirror , not when we ask others to do that.

        1. Henry

          NBS:“Confession , Henry , is best served when we look into our own souls and face the man in the mirror , not when we ask others to do that.”

          Yes, my 3:18 is consistent with the above proposition you embrace. We should therefore be on the same team. Why, therefore, the attack language? Nobody was talking about Repubics or dems. Your circling the wagons around your good people is a little premature and defensive.

  5. Well said HPD. I think the idea of confession is closely tied to using shame as a means to control. The whole sin/shame concept seems to be falling out of favor and being replaced with a spirituality that whatever behavior causes to you to feel distanced from your higher being is ‘sin’ and therefore different things for different people.

    Heard an interstesting perspective to the effect of “we’re all climbing the same mountain, we’re just on different paths to get there.”

  6. H.P.Drifter


    I agree with you we are climbing the same mountain, except Henry he is clinbing the big pile

  7. “All the atheists I know want to be good people and good citizens. So far, confession has not been needed.”

    Good? What is good to an atheist? How does an atheist acquire his conscience and its sense of “goodness” or “badness”; “rightness” from “wrongness”; “straightness” from “crookedness”?

    God’s word teaches that He has written His law on the hearts of ALL men; believers and un-believers alike. But when an atheist denies this to be true; from where does he claim to have acquired the understanding of differentiating between “right” and “wrong”? More yet, why should an atheist even care about differentiating “good” from “bad”? ALL behavior in that case would be relative. None more desirable than any other. Murder equivalent with charity.

    “…I will put my law (The 10 Commandments) within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” ~ Jeremiah 31:33

    If atheists deny that God exists, then they must also claim that God has not written His law upon their hearts. And if an atheist embraces that, he has no business “want[ing] to be good people and good citizens.” You may as well embrace the child molester or the murderer because you cannot account for how your conscience has acquired the knowledge that good and evil do indeed exist. Nor should you care. No theory of evolution could ever account for your admission of wanting “good”. It is visible that God’s law was written on your heart. Though you deny this to be true, how do you account for the obvious fact that it is there?

    Any account that you could give (apart from God) will only find its explanation as coming from some impersonal, uncaring source or theory of evolvement. But why would an impersonal, evolving process care a lick or two cents about “good” and “bad” behavior? Any account such as that would only find its source in a “thing”…not a someone. A thing doesn’t care or even take the time to think. But a someone; a someone like you and me and everyone else; we DO care. We do care about right and wrong. We care about right and wrong because we were made in the image of God The Creator who has a standard which is required of man. Nothing and no one apart from God could ever care about upholding a standard. Nor SHOULD he care if he intends to be intellectually honest with himself.

    “All the atheists I know want to be good people and good citizens. So far, confession has not been needed.”

    Your own words keep giving you away. Your functional belief, as evidenced by just your one quote, doesn’t jive with what you claim as “truth”. You hear God’s voice inside of you every time that you make a judgement call between “good” and “bad”. Deny this all that you want. But His voice will never go away!

    Confession is most certainly in order. So repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. What a humbling experience indeed.


    1. Project 7:31 Thanks for taking time to elaborate on your views of atheism.

      “You may as well embrace the child molester because you cannot account for how your conscience has acquired the knowledge that good and evil do indeed exist. Nor should you care, No theory of evolution could ever account for your admission of wanting ‘good’.”

      I’m afraid you comments do not reflect knowledge about humanism/atheism. We believe humans have the ability to see behavior which is harmful to themselves and to other humans. We understand that if all people rob and harm others, we ourselves will be harmed–our self interest acts as dicipline. That, not evolution, is the source of our ability to decide what is good citizenship and what is not. Further, we believe the source of moral values in religions of all kinds came from humans, not from some divine author of a book. That is, the ideas expressed in the Bible came from the minds of humans and from nowhere else.

      The reason we a quite confident in our conclusion good and bad comes from the human mind is the atheists have wonderful records of civic behavior. There are very few atheists in prisons. For whatever reason, they are under represented compared to their frequency in the population. So, for you to conclude atheists have no ability to determine right from wrong is not found in real world evidence.

      I will agree with you that I deny a god has written anything on my heart. I have no idea what you are referring to. I also deny hearing any gods’ voices in determining good and bad. Nevertheless, if you feel you hear such voices, I hope they are giving you good advice.

    2. Les

      If what you say is true, how do you explain the fact that only a tiny percentage of the prison population is atheistic?

      1. Wanna B Sure

        Jon–Les; Re. Who has the most in prison.: I think we beat this horse into a coma a year or more ago. This is almost as confusing as Abbot and Costello’s routine on “Who’s on first.” Things to consider : Yes, people of all sorts go to prison for various reasons. Some chronic, some one time situations. There are educational and mental considerations. What/ where/when/who were they before prison, during prison, and after prison.— What is included in under the broad umbrella of Christianity. Are those in the Mexican drug culture that subscribe to the Santa Muerte death cult by association considered Catholic, and are thus Christian. How many are adding the title Christian to their resume for parole purposes, and are just “talking the talk”. How many became actual believers after being sent to prison. If one considers prison to be something similar to a fox hole, (a metaphor), here are some examples that give a certain amount of credence to the statement. We hear a lot of statements about after being sent to prison, (especially the young,) that come out more hardened criminals than they were before they went in. Hardly an indication of “coming to the faith in love”. After seeing a series of shows on the culture of gangs in prison, I see virtually no evidence of Christianity in them. Figures lie, and liars figure.

        Things to consider. Just saying.

        1. Wanna 1:31 “…I see virtualaly no evidence of Christianity in them.”

          I agree there are all kinds reasons people are in prision, including drug laws which were a mistake. You miss the point, however. The point is there is no evidence Christians operate on a higher moral plain than atheists. Would you agree with this??

          1. Wanna B Sure

            Jon; Don’t you remember ? I clearly stated a few weeks ago that atheists can and do act morally.
            Your point was; ” There are very few atheists in prison”, (your words.).

          2. Wanna 2:46 “Don’t you remember/”

            My apology. I remember now you have written this. Good for you. I only wish other devout Christians would own up to this fact.

          3. Wanna B Sure

            Thank you Jon.

            I should also add; There is also value in what is NOT said, if one listens . Prior to my clear statement, which you forgot, If understood properly, I have never said I think atheists can’t act morally. A parallel to that, I have never said that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to crime.

          4. Wanna B Sure

            PS; There are a couple other hot button issues you virtually never hear me participate in. Not because I agree OR disagree, (that’s not the issue), but because I believe they are a diversion from my primary concerns.

    3. I hope our guy Julius Project returns. One of this blogs oun “projects” has turned out to be arguing with the likes of this gentleman about the morality of Christians versus atheists. I see by his website he is Protestant and energetically puts forth his views.

      It would be great if he would return and we could discuss the fact that in real life, atheists’ morality it definitely no worse than that of Christians. I’d like to learn why that can be the case when atheists do not have the “morality” of Jews and Christians as laid out in the Bible to lean on.

      In the Bible, God did all those terrible things to innocent people–killed a couple million of them. Is the lesson of the Bible that we should not do the immoral things God did?

    4. Adam Heckathorn

      Julius I appreciate Your straight forward communication but Your point of view I believe is based on some assumptions that simply are not correct. Take this statement; Good? What is good to an atheist? How does an atheist acquire his conscience and its sense of “goodness” or “badness”; “rightness” from “wrongness”; “straightness” from “crookedness”? I make Moral decisions at the most basic level by thinking in terms of cause and effect based on thought helped by past experience and the experience of others. I can think of nothing better than living among happy healthy People in a stable society where everyone is free to do as They wish as long as They don’t impinge on the right of others to do the same. I act as best I can to promote that. As an example I commute to work on either a bicycle or public transportation and when I got the chance I agree’d to be interviewed by a television reporter to promote bicycles as transportation. Two of the many areas that will be effected by greater numbers using bicycles as transportation would be Global Warming and the frequency of Wars fought over Natural Resources. I believe in universal access to health care for the same reasons. Let Me confess to an ulterior motive in mentioning Global Warming I believe the views on this subject of many Religious People are shortsighted and harmful and a good example why it’s foolish to make decisions based on the assumption that “God is taking care of that”.

  8. John 10:00pm” We believe humans have the ability to see behavior which is harmful to themselves and to other humans. We understand that if all people rob and harm others, we ourselves will be harmed–our self interest acts as dicipline.”
    That certainly doesn’t seem to be the standard in the history of mankind John.
    “There are very few atheists in prisons.” There are even fewer in foxholes.

    1. entech

      If you read in the Bible that the Hebrews on the orders of and with the help of God destroyed many other tribes in the area. they did not always win, sometimes if they had been naughty God let the other side win sometimes. But if the main reason given is that they did not worship or sometimes even believe in the Hebrew God they must have been defined as atheists. Maybe not foxholes but certainly strong on the battle field. The Romans did pretty well before being defeated by Christianity.

      But the most interesting BS interpretation of your BS is:
      Atheists are pacifist (refusing to go to the foxholes and fight) which makes the others … .

      But seriously the implication that there are no atheists in foxholes implies that fear of death makes converts, not very flattering for faith.

      1. josh

        What it does is give the atheist a cold slap of reality. All of a sudden the idea of eternal death does not seem so academic. I’ve seen the change in men in battle. Haven’t met one atheist yet.

  9. Fr. James

    Jon, first there is a difference between blue laws and the immorality of homosexual acts. Why do you conflate those two issues? A knee jerk response?

    As for control. Currently those who are secularists, and often atheists, seem to desire a massive amount of control over others. For example if you oppose same sex marriage you are labeled a bigot and can be forced to undergo sensitivity training. It can cost grades and even a job. Or the current desire to force Catholic organizations to pay for contraception in defiance of our past history of respecting conscience in this country. Or the recent attempts to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. I could go on. I suggest that Jon look at the log in his own eye…

    If he is claiming that atheists have nothing to confess I would suggest he consider meditating upon the sin of pride.

    1. Fr. James 8:24 “…there is a difference between blue laws and the immorality of homosexual acts.”

      One of the ten commandments addresses working on Sunday. None prohibit homosexual acts. Are they not both sins? Where is it said we are to rank sins?

      1. Fr. James

        Number 6 prohibits immoral sexuality and that includes homosexuality. The 10 commandments are like headings for various moral categories. Also Romans chapter 1 mentions it specifically. The Church has mitigated working on Sunday for centuries for farmers and others. We don’t ask the impossible. In fact in James it says that some sins are deadly and others are not. There is a difference between venial and mortal sins. you really should do your homework when you comment about Catholicism.

  10. Adam Heckathorn

    Fr. James I appreciate Your sincere comments it seems You have given more than a little thought to these subjects. I would appreciate Your thoughts on contraceptives used in ways other than as contraceptives. One of My daughters who is a devout JW takes birth control pills to control tumors on Her Ovaries. She is unmarried and not sexually active because of Her religious belief. If She worked for a Catholic organization that provided health insurance do you feel They should fund Her birth control pills?

    1. Fr. James

      We actually do permit in certain circumstances the use of such drugs for other purposes, so long as they do not actually cause abortions. That is a different kettle of fish then what we are discussing. I think it is wrong for force people to pay for a product or service for others that they oppose in conscience.

      1. Adam Heckathorn

        If it would be OK to use these pills for tumors and many other uses maybe I’m being naive but wouldn’t You have to really know a lot about an individual employee’s medical business to make a decision on whether or not to allow the prescription? This seems like a slippery slope to Me. On an unrelated topic I agree that to paint any group including Catholics with a wide brush based on one poor example is not fair.

        1. Fr. James

          You already have to know a lot about those things under the Obamacare system. It should not however be difficult to stipulate that the doctor must prescribe medication for these things only for such conditions. If someone wants contraception or a sex change then they can pay for it themselves.

          I think using the “bad” guy scenario’s are not helpful. It is so common though in current discourse.

          1. Adam Heckathorn

            I’ve raised three daughters on My own as My wife has had a severe brain Injury since My soon to be eighteen Year old was four. I would like to have a dime for every time one of My Daughters missed a day of school or got out of something because of Female troubles. I’ll admit I might be an enabler. So I guess We can assume any Gal that wants these is going to be able to get them. This seems a little silly it makes Me think of the saying pick Your battles I don’t think their will be any winning here . I wonder if in the long run the only result won’t be to diminish individual rights and privacy and perhaps diminished respect for any institution that is pushing for this.

          2. Fr. James

            I think the danger is that religious liberty and freedom of conscience are at serious risk. Just because they want to involve us in something that people should pay for themselves. The next step will be forcing us to pay for direct abortions.

  11. Wolfy32

    I find this discussion a bit odd in that Christians are implying the that the only reason to care about anyone else is because of wanting to look good to God? That to me is a greater sin than not believing in God. Think about the implications of that statement.

    The ONLY reason to care about anyone but yourself is to look good in God’s eyes. Wow… No wonder some Christians are bitter judgemental people.

    If I help someone, by holding a door for them, or doing something nice for them, maybe buying their coffee or showing appreciation and support to someone, the reasons for me to act in a supportive matter have nothing to do with God, and even if I believed in God they would still have nothing to do with God. God is not my motivation for getting up in the morning or for doing something nice for someone, or for caring about people in my life or for showing myself respect and caring.

    If people Need a God in order to care about other people… Therin lies the epidemy of self centered humanism and self glorification.

    “Look at me look at me, I’m helping this old lady across the street. My good deed for the day God!!! Now bless me!!!”

    Who needs God in order to show others compassion and love?

      1. Wolfy32

        Nope, just using examples to try to understand the logic for the judgement that “Anyone that doesn’t believe in God has no reason to do anything good for mankind.”

        To summarize my point: Do you need a reason to be an ethical and moral person that shows care to others?

        1. Fr. James

          Why do I show care for others and try to act in a moral way? Because I am created in the image and likeness of God and so is every other human being. Therefore, I am created to love every other person and to do so in the same way Christ loves us. A love that is sacrificial and wills the good for the other.

          According to Jon atheists do so in order to do no harm to themselves or society. There is no reason to do good, just not to do harm since it might impact yourself. A rather selfish form of morals.

          Which is the higher morality do you think?

          1. Fr. James 6:20 “According to Jon atheists do so in order to do no harm to themselves or society. There is no reason to do good, just not to do harm since it might impact itself. A rather selfish form or morals.”

            I’ve inquired here other times if any of the Christians on our board would continue to believe in the forgiveness of sins and doing good works if the availability of heaven were withdrawn. (Of course, I already think it is withdrawn, no evidence it exists). So far, no one has said, yes, my beliefs in everything else Christian would remain even if there were no reward or punishment in the afterlife. That tells me the Christian view of morality is a selfish one. Perhaps you would like to weigh in on whether the selfish reward of an afterlife has any bearing on your religious views.

            I’d also like to point out, you made an earlier statement atheists had no moral grounding, or, words to that effect. I pointed out that atheist do have a grounding and explained what it was. Now, you don’t like the explanation I gave. There is no reason anyone has to like or dislike the atheist’s moral grounding, but it is incorrect to say there is none as you did earlier.

          2. Fr. James

            Dear Jon,

            We do not believe that we do good in order to win heaven. In fact we believe that perfect love is not based on fear of hell or hope of heaven. It is based solely upon the love of God for his own sake. Heaven is a gift not a prize to be won. So your argument is a straw man argument and is not based on what we actually believe.

            Thus as I said we base our morality on sacrificial love. Christ sets this pattern on the cross. He gained nothing except death. We do that which is good because of the human dignity of all persons.

            I don’t remember saying that atheists had no moral grounding. I asked WHAT the moral grounding was for them. Then I quoted what you told me. So how can you say that I claim you had none when I quoted what you told me?

            I stand by what I said. Do no harm that affects oneself or society is nice. But it does not include necessarily doing good for others. It is not disinterested. It is centered on self. Our moral basis is much higher then that.

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