Stereotypes like these get echoed sometimes even in Christian books and lectures that are targeted at adults. I once attended a successful megachurch on the Sunday before Easter. The pastor wanted his audience to be clear that the resurrection of Jesus wasn’t merely some spiritual metaphor. “If the resurrection didn’t literally happen,” he shouted, “there is no reason for us to be here! If the resurrection didn’t literally happen—there are parties to be had! There are women to be had! There are guns to shoot! There are people to shoot!”
You caught the subtext? Atheists (and even liberal Christians) have no basis for morality. Nothing—and I mean nothing!—stands between a godless person and debauchery or lechery or even violence.
Population demographics suggest otherwise, of course. Atheism is far more common among elite scientists and some of the most peaceful and equitable societies on earth are also the least religious. But believers persist in fearing that godless people are amoral, that unfettered by religion the world would descend into the anarchy and bloodbath depicted in the Left Behind movies.
In reality, when asked about their moral values or what motivates them in life, atheists use words that sound downright spiritual, very much like the words religious people use in fact, with a few noteworthy differences. To create his book, A better Life, Photographer Chris Johnson asked 100 atheists about what gives their lives joy and meaning.