Promoting science, reason & critical thinking with a rational A-theist perspective to advance the secular political agenda

Advertiser – Religion and Ethics – published 27.5.13 to 3.6.13

3.6.13  2nd Full Page of letters from atheists: Louise Jones, Stephen Wardle, Jason Egan, Moira Clarke (SPA)
31.5.13  Full Page of letters from atheists, including from ASA Brian Morris and Deb Alexander (below)
30.5.13  Full Page of Christian letters (led by Sen. Eric Abetz) refuting Tory Shepherds article on 27th.
27.5.13  Tory Shepherd:  “Religion should have no role in our laws”.

Ethics have evolved
SENATOR Eric Abetz and other fundamentalist Christians sound increasingly shrill when brandishing the Bible as the sole arbiter of ethics (The Advertiser, yesterday).

What they deliberately avoid is the clear anthropological evidence that “moral codes” evolved, along with modern humans, over a 150,000-year period.

Ethics, as with all things, have evolved much further since the Bronze Age values of Genesis. And everything from the New Testament has been lifted from earlier, and relatively more sophisticated, cultures.

Modern ethics have been refined by atheists, secularists and humanists to advance our human values well beyond the dogma of Christian doctrine.

Religion of all stripes has a lot to answer for. It is divisive on a global scale and it is bigoted at a local level – particularly with respect to a raft of current socially progressive issues.

As the Western world becomes more secular, Australian children need to be taught ethics, not Christian fundamentalism. Perhaps then we can turn our attention to the east and help them to escape other fundamentalist doctrines – with the aim of minimising human conflict inspired by religion.

BRIAN MORRIS, President, Atheism SA Inc., Netherby.

Neutral governing
I AM pleased to live in a country where Tory Shepherd has the freedom to publish her views questioning the place of religious beliefs in politics, and a newspaper supports it.

In many countries that would not be possible, and it’s fairly easy to see that those countries are governed by theocracies.

Our Constitution specifically separates church and state, and for a good reason.  Belief in religion is a personal choice, but governing a collective of people should be achieved through belief-neutral law.

I was lucky enough not to be indoctrinated in any religion, so I grew up without the burden of guilt for lapsing from a particular dogma. As an atheist (really more as a pantheist), I do not believe I suffer from the pride of thinking myself to be the sole arbiter of values. I just think that compassionate values are self evident to compassionate humans.

Humanity could, with sufficient maturity, decide on a collective set of global values to live by – all the obvious stuff, not killing or stealing, etc – without ascribing these values to a nebulous god or a holy book of questionable provenance.

Humanity having sufficient maturity is the problem, though. I despair at us. Fighting over differing beliefs in a god figure? How primitive we truly are.


Good atheist ethics

NO, Senator Eric Abetz, there is no misunderstanding (“Home’s foundations”, The Advertiser, 30/5/13). As an atheist, I have a set of ethics that I believe to be good.

Your implication that ethics formed by those without a belief in God are inferior indicates the true misunderstanding.

 I agree that many ethics within our society have their roots in religion. However, many atheists today form their ethics based on life experience, everyday knowledge, common sense, and education. This may indicate why many have shown an interest in humanism.

 Good and bad ethics can be represented by both of the broad sectors of society we are discussing here – those with religious beliefs and those without.

 Attempting to compare one against the other by necessity fails to encompass individual thoughts, beliefs and behaviours.

 LOUISE JONES, Adelaide.

 No proof, no belief

IN response to Eric Abetz’s letter to the editor (The Advertiser, 30/5/13), there is so much wrong with what you wrote I could write a novel in response.

 However, I would like to just address one statement you made: that it takes just as much faith to believe there is a God as not.

 If your friend says to you that they’ve been abducted by aliens, do you believe them? Of course you’re justified in thinking, “I can’t believe you until more substantial evidence arrives.”

 That is not faith, it’s the correct position to hold on any subject where there’s clearly a lack of any substantial evidence.

 STEPHEN WARDLE, Gulfview Heights.

 Personal code only

ERIC Abetz (adelaidenow, 29/5/13) is correct when he states ethics don’t emerge from a vacuum. Personal ethics certainly don’t materialise from nowhere – they are

 a product of the environment, including culture, operating on our evolved brains.  Humans evolved to form co-operative societies. In the modern context, most of us approve of attitudes and behaviours that foster the prevention of harm and the protection of the weak; these include justice and compassion.

 Those attitudes that earn our disapproval include aggression and bigotry.

 A significant part of Senator Abetz’s environment was his Bible. Various versions of the Bible are composed of a series of texts written from the Bronze Age to the 4th century CE, some handed down by word of mouth, translated, copied and modified over the ages. Despite nice bits, these texts promote slavery and genocide, argue that women should submit to men, and that homosexuals should be murdered.

 As a taxpayer, I would prefer my government to refrain from applying the Bible to legislation that affects women and minorities, including our gay and lesbian fellow citizens.

 Senator Abetz treats the word faith loosely. He requires faith to believe in a god because there is absolutely no evidence of said deity’s existence. This is a very different kind of faith from that required for belief in the theory of gravity, or that the Earth is spherical, or that there are no fairies at the bottom of the garden.

 I am working towards secular government so Senator Abetz’s unsubstantiated beliefs will not have an impact on anyone’s freedom or happiness, including that of Senator Abetz.

 Tory Shepherd is right: religion should have no place in our legal system. I hope The Advertiser‘s religious readers agree that religion dictates a personal code of conduct, and should not be forced upon everyone else.

 MOIRA CLARKE, The Secular Party of Australia, Banksia Park.

 Higher standards

WHILE you have given the right of reply to Eric Abetz (The Advertiser, 30/5/13) so that he can get his message across in reference to Tory Shepherd’s column (The Advertiser, 28/5/13), Eric has given the impression that he knows what it is to be an atheist.

 Quite simply, to say one must have religion to have ethics is wrong. I am an atheist, but have high moral standards – higher than those in the church who hold revered titles.

 JASON EGAN, Napperby.

 Who would decide?

 BRIAN Morris, President of Atheism SA Inc (“Ethics have evolved”, The Advertiser, 31/5/13) suggests that our children be taught ethics without Christianity (which, with a derogatory toss of the word, he broadly labels “fundamentalism”).

 Right. Who shall we put in charge of the curriculum? Tory Shepherd, Bob Such, Steph Key, perhaps?

 The design director for Ethics for Children could be Dr Philip Nitschke, or the president of the Scarlet Alliance Australia, or the committee from Emily’s List, or Brian Morris himself.

 What a hullabaloo. Whichever way you look at it, our ethics need to be derived from a belief in a higher being, for otherwise self, the id, gets in the way.

 In the end, that will prove the antithesis of its own cause.