Do you need faith to be a moral person?

complaint about religious instruction to human rights commissioner
Complaining to the Human Rights Commission is one way to raise the issue of religious influence in state schools.

This is my response to a Christian asking me to take this website down because he believes that children need to hear about his religion and that morality cannot exist without God. You can read his email here.

I’m not sure what you are referring to by “atheist philosophies”? I’ve always considered atheists to simply be people that lack belief in any gods. That’s not really much of a philosophy. I think you’re probably referring to secular education, which was enacted in New Zealand at a time when over 90% of the population were Christian.

I don’t think that I’ve ever written about atheism as having any place in education. In fact, I’ve explicitly stated that I do not want to teach atheism to school children any more than I want Christian faith taught to them.

You said that taking god out of school leaves a vacuum filled by atheism. Firstly, I don’t consider it a vacuum; I consider it a natural state. We are all born without any belief in gods until someone convinces us otherwise. Religious beliefs or lack thereof should not be something that is taught in our state school where less than half the country is now Christian. I have no objection to education about religion in general at high school level. Faith should be a choice for a mature person, not something that is forced onto young children.

There is no such thing as an “atheist belief system”. What you’re talking about is scientific theory. Some atheists may have opinions about that and some may not. It’s quite possible to be an atheist without knowing anything about it. Religion does a great job of disproving itself without science being involved!

An atheist believing something they cannot prove does not prove that there is an atheist belief system. I believe that Highlander is one of the best movies ever made. I cannot prove it but I think lots of atheists would agree with me. That doesn’t make it our “belief system”. Lots of atheists would likewise agree with big bang theory and evolution, and so on. But that is simply because the nature of being an atheist can predispose someone to scientific thought, not because there is a “big book of atheism” that teaches us this, as there is with Christianity.

Christianity may claim morality as their own but it’s a baseless claim. Morality is found in all cultures and all religions and most of it is compatible with Christian morality. Even the golden rule of “do unto others” is found in many cultures prior to Christian influence. Morals are rules that all societies created to make life work better for everyone. Modern Christians “pick and mix” their own moral code to fit in with modern society. They are happy to mock other cultures and religions, while ignoring many of their own biblical moral codes, which we now consider barbaric, misogynistic and cruel.

A Christian questioning why an atheist is a moral person is a very telling thing. It implies that without God, there is no reason to be moral. Quite simply, I try to uphold my values because life is better for everyone if we all care for each other. I do not need the fear of divine retribution or a promise of a reward in heaven to try and be a good person. I do it because it is better for all humanity. I would like to think that without belief in god, you would do the same but your questions imply that there would be no reason for you to uphold any morals without god.

I complain about CEC because they are trying to spread religious faith with no regard to whether or not the children taking on their faith have the capacity to make an informed choice.  They do not care whether or not the non-Christian parents want the classes in their school. They do not care that they have manipulated the law to their own ends. They do not care that Christian parents and teachers within primary schools manipulate and lie to parents to ensure the classes continue. And as you say (without meaning to), they do not really care about the values and morals – the faith is the reason they are there.

The nihilistic view of the universe is really irrelevant to our daily lives. I can agree with the idea that there is no “greater secret purpose” for the universe and still care about the future for my kids. Not sure why you don’t understand that.

Much of what you’re writing is predicated on belief in a god. It’s this lack of objectivity that makes Christians think that whatever they do is right “because god”. If an atheist came running to your aid while you were being mugged, I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t consider their values “fake” at that moment because they have no religious beliefs.

You go off on quite a rant about morals having to come from god. I have a couple of reactions to this;

  • I think it’s sad that you think religious faith is needed to consider other people and do good.
  • It’s scary that Christians are spreading this attitude to children.

Don’t you think it’s far more virtuous to do good without god than it is to do good because of god? It is illogical to believe that good values come only from faith in divine instruction.

The arguments about how my Daughter could use Atheism to justify anything is, quite frankly, laughable.. Have you not read any history? Megalomaniacs have used religion as a tool to oppress people throughout recorded history. Stalin and Mao were no different, they just had different justification. Hitler was raised a Catholic and claimed support from god many times. You should look up Godwin’s Law too.

I find most Christians have very little understanding of what Biblical morality actually is. They follow a “Disney” version of Christian morality that has little connection to what is written in the bible and is closer to the average atheist’s morals than the bible.

What Richard Dawkins actually said was;

“Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God’s approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment? That’s not morality, that’s just sucking up, apple-polishing, looking over your shoulder at the great surveillance camera in the sky, or the still small wiretap inside your head, monitoring your every move, even your every base thought.”
― Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Bible classes are destructive. They teach children to have faith without question instead of thinking for themselves. They teach magical thinking instead of critical thinking. They preach god’s unconditional love in preparation for belief in sin, hell and the judgement of everyone who doesn’t believe in the same things they do.

Finally, atheists haven’t “entered state schools” at all. The Secular Education Network is a mixture of people with different beliefs and are not trying to replace the bible classes with any view on god. They are trying to remove religious faith teaching from state schools. I’m sure you’d agree with that if it was any religion in the classes other than your own.

If everything is part of god’s plan, why are you bothering to protest this?

This response was sent to him on 18th July 2016. I got a reply on 27th September you can read here. I’d be interested to hear what you think. Please comment below!

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