It's one thing to talk about that in theory, but rarely are the consequences of this ethical deficiency painted in such stark colors as they were today, when excerpts from the online diary of the LA Fitness shooter were published by ABC News:
Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.
Apparently this guy subscribed to the "we are saved by grace alone" theory, which basically says you just need to accept Jesus and then you are scot-free, no matter what terrible crimes you commit during your lifetime. We can never say for sure that this guy wouldn't have done it anyway if he didn't believe that, but the very idea is chilling.
Anti-atheists like to say that without religion, we have no moral compass. While I don't accept this line of argumentation, let's assume for a second that it is true. Even if it were, we would still expect atheists to behave more ethically than their Atonement-believing Christian counterparts, because the threat of imprisonment or other worldly consequences would be much less threatening to a person who believed that they'd get to chase it with an eternity in paradise anyway.
Update: Some commenters on PZ's blog are pointing out that in another entry, the shooter also criticizes religion, and uses phraseology that suggests his final post -- the one quoted above -- may have been sarcastic.
I'm going to leave this blog post in place anyway, because I think the point about the Atonement meme eroding personal responsibility is still a valid one, and because I already acknowledged that he might have gone on this killing spree anyway regardless of his beliefs about the afterlife.