Friday, March 06, 2009

An Atheist From Norfolk Speaks About the Evolution Survey

Cath Elliott, from Norfolk writes for the Guardian that:

I have to admit I was a bit put out when I realised there would be no atheist buses coming to my neck of the woods. I loved the campaign slogan, even with the inclusion of "probably," and once it became clear that enough money had been raised to convey the message to cities beyond London I was really looking forward to being able to ride on an atheist bus myself. Alas, it wasn't to be, but now at least I can understand why the organisers omitted to involve East Anglia in the campaign: they weren't deliberately ignoring us; they simply understood that this region had no need for atheist buses, because the east of England is already full of atheists anyway.

According to the map, 44% of people in the region believe that evolution removes the need for God. Oddly, the article is particularly devoid of mention of evolution or the theory itself. It is more of the viewpoint that atheism doesn't imply nihilism:

Of course what's particularly gratifying about the survey result is that it confirms what atheists have been trying to get across for years. That morals and ethics are not determined by or exclusive to any religion, and that those of us without a belief in the supernatural are just as capable of behaving decently and caring about our fellow citizens as anyone else. In fact we're probably more capable, because we do it of our own free will and we don't need any mythical gods or holy books to tell us right from wrong.

This is a bit of a straw-man argument. Christianity doesn't guarantee more moral or perfect people. It just means that someone "believes" in a higher being and tries to ascribe to the values that that higher being promotes. We often fail miserably at that, being the human creature that we are. Church isn't for perfect people, just people who want to be better than they are and see God as the agent of that change. As far as the church is concerned, the only difference between people that believe in God and people that don't is that the people that don't believe in God don't have a promise of eternity with God. As I read the literature, it becomes clear that religious people have very peculiar misinterpretations about atheists and atheists have very peculiar misinterpretations about religious people.


  1. He's over-reaching when he starts the "more capable" bit. He should have just stopped with the point that morals and ethics do not have or need religious grounding.

  2. Agreed. It is the kind of condescension that is prevalent in the writings of Richard Dawkins--the idea that religion makes all people behave badly and if we could just get rid of it, the world would be a better place.