01/04/2008 04:19 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Copyright on values

You will all have seen it - whenever an atheist points out that in fact there is absolutely no evidence of any kind that a god or gods exist the believers (moderate and fundamentalist) respond that you need religion to have morals. This kind of response I saw formalized in a recent article by the former Bishop of Oxford. While pretending to be broadminded he takes it two steps further. Atheists may think they have morals but - "As human beings we can recognise and respond to particular moral insights. But a religious believer claims to understand these as part of a much larger whole in which they have a vital place", and uses an analogy of appreciating a piece of music without understanding that the piece is part of a symphony "and can be even more appreciated when heard as part of the whole in which it has a crucial place". I have trouble writing down these nonsensical arguments which are presented as if they have some factual basis, but stay with me, it gets worse. Not only can atheists not understand that their piddling little bits of morality should be part of a religious whole, but even those piddling bits are stolen from others - "many people who have strong moral commitments without any religious foundation were shaped by parents or grandparents for whom morality and religion were fundamentally bound up" and "many of those in the forefront of progressive political change, who have abandoned religion, have been driven by a humanism that has been essentially built up by our Christian heritage". The good bishop refers to this proposition as "living on moral capital". That is, no atheist can have morality, they are simply, whether they know it or not, using the morality of the religious (and without acknowledgment - must be a copyright issue here, surely!). Boy, and they accuse atheists of arrogance!

Thing is these kind of comments come from representatives of groups that together have some combination of the following moral values - misogyny, telling expedient lies, homophobia, hatred of all religious groups except their own, anti-immigrant, pro-war, anti-science, pro-capitalism, a love of slaughtering animals, burning widows, executing rape victims, executing juveniles, jailing drug users, a hatred of black people, support for forest clearing, support for severe child punishment, torture, pro-military, anti-intellectual, pro-censorship, anti-universal health care, suicide bombing, acceptance of collateral bombing deaths, nuclear war, brain washing of children, blaming the poor for their circumstances, a belief in doing unto others before they do unto you, a belief that life after death is preferable to life before death. I may have missed some.

My values are the opposite of all that. I treat people equally, I would never set out to physically harm another human being, or an animal. I believe in conserving forest not destroying it, am against war, for social justice, for intellectual curiosity and freedom of speech, for telling the truth, for empathizing with others. I love my family, my friends, animals, my world. I love life in fact, not death. Values derived from my sense of humanity, not from some imaginary edicts emerging from the sky.

So I don't share many values with the Pope, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Ayatolla Khomeini, Pat Robertson, Augusto Pincochet, Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair, Mitt Romney, Pervez Musharraf, Rudy Guiliani, Moqtada al Sadri, Jerry Falwell, Osama bin Laden, Ian Paisley, Ehud Olmert, Slobodan Milosevic - good religious men all. Think I should?

Much more to delight the godless on The Watermelon Blog.