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Is moral change speeding up?

17 April 2014

2:41 PM

17 April 2014

2:41 PM

After David Cameron’s whole God thing last week, there was a discussion on the radio this morning about whether religion is necessary for morality. Clearly there’s nothing to stop atheists being as moral as religious people, and as atheism grows in more advanced, literate countries, almost by definition the least corrupt and venal societies also have the lowest levels of religious belief. But, as it is generally accepted that human beings are susceptible to the messages they are given, either explicitly or subconsciously, the underlying principles of Christianity – forgiveness and compassion – must certainly influence behaviour; likewise if people are told that they can only be happy if they make lots of money and consume more, as they generally are, then they will take that on. It won’t change human nature, but it will influence behaviour.

And if Christianity continues its decline there is no reason why the morals we currently share won’t change drastically. In this week’s magazine, Douglas Murray is asking, in light of the scandal involving the incineration of foetuses, whether the idea of the ‘sanctity of life’ can survive Christianity:

‘As Jonathan Sacks wrote in this magazine last year, atheists tend to imply that there isn’t much work to do after discarding God. On the contrary, after discarding God, all the work of establishing morals is still before you — just as after demonstrating mankind’s need for ethics, the work of proving a particular religion is true remains before you. 

But this greatest challenge in the -atheist argument remains the one we hear least about. As Sacks pointed out, it is increasingly clear that, contra most atheists, -ethics are self-evidently not self-evident. They vary wildly from era to era, and many Judeo-Christian ethics may well, as T.S. Eliot put it, ‘hardly survive the Faith to which they owe their significance’. 

The more atheists think on these things, the more we may have to accept that the concept of the sanctity of human life is a Judeo-Christian notion which might very easily not survive Judeo-Christian civilisation.’

It’s also possibly the case that ideas and moral values evolve more quickly as a population increases in size, which is partly why rural societies are more conservative than urban ones. (And what goes for memes goes for genes too – human evolution has probably sped up since the first cities 10,000 years ago). Likewise language evolves more quickly in cities, which is why the English spoken in heavily urbanised England has moved further away from Shakespeare’s speech than the English of Virginia and North Carolina (which is apparently the closest thing to Tudor English still in existence).


Morality in my lifetime has changed a great deal. In The Blank Slate Steven Pinker points to a large list of issues where public opinion has altered; some we’ve become more tolerant of, some more censorious. Consider things like drink driving or smoking around children, and how our perception has changed.

Religion puts a break on such change, perhaps in the same way that printing and literacy does – by allowing a code by which everyone can communicate rather than developing their own subcultures. But with European Christianity in steady decline these past few decades, a common moral language has gone too.

The idea that aborted foetuses would be used to power hospitals would have struck people until very recently as extremely macabre and sinister, but public opinion on this subject has rapidly evolved. And as with evolution, ideas become more popular if they can advantage the person holding them; supporting women’s reproductive rights or, to take an example where public morality has most changed in 40 years, gay rights, will generally not harm anyone’s chances with the opposite sex during the years that it matters.

Where is it heading? What change can we expect in the next few decades as the evolution of morality continues apace? Even atheists have only known societies dominated by Christian ideas; they would be foolish to assume those ideas will long outlive the faith that carried them.

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Show comments
  • Mike Y

    I believe moral change is speeding up as you stated, primarily for the better. I think this moral evolution is a result of constant debate about ethics and values, and how they should be applied to the public. Morality should come from maximizing the well-being for the maximum number of people. Well-being is an extremely subjective idea, however, which is why knowledgeable debate about well-being for people is so important. Religion and God may have contributed to the distribution and implementation of morals throughout history, but the morals themselves were not derived from any religion or a god.

  • kefa

    Thus says The Lord: Streams of water flow down from the mountains, springs of water burst forth from the rocks, rivers of water overflow their banks… And still the thirst of this people is not quenched.

    Multitudes of dead and dying peoples fill the streets and the alleyways. No hope is found, no light breaks through the open spaces… The darkness grows and is very thick… Many darkened and ill faces wondering about, treading the broad way… The light of life dims, as their hearts grow cold.

    Their countenances are always downcast, for there is no hope in man. Affection is all but lost, compassion is forgotten, and loving one another has no place in man’s designs. For natural affection departs from the hearts of the wicked, and lustful endeavors consume them… Filthiness has made a home, and perversion is praised and celebrated openly in the streets!… As the innocent look upon them with wonder…


    I have looked upon you! I know all your doings!

    Says The Lord God, even I who formed you.

    How long will you tempt Me?!…

    How long shall you rebuild Sodom

    And make Gomorrah your home?!

    My people have forgotten Me, days without end! My heart tears inside Me, each and every time I look upon you. Israel does not know Me, and those called by The Christ’s name pollute My name and My Word, without ceasing!… They are unrelenting!… I can no more listen to their foul speech! I can no more bear the sight of them!

    The God of Israel is dead in their eyes! The Salvation of God has no part with them!… Unless I change and become like them, unless I bow down and give heed to their demands, that I altogether conform to their image. And what more shall I say then? What more shall I do for a people such as this?… They will not listen, they refuse to give heed. They squeeze their eyes shut with all their strength, while clasping their hands over their ears tightly.

    What is left then?…

    Only that I gather what little light remains,

    And every innocent child…

    I must make room!

    I must clear My way before Me!…

    I must break this people and destroy all they have made.

    It must be done! The wrath of God must be poured out, the cleansing fire must rage!… Until every last vestige of man’s invention is gone from the earth! Until every last stronghold of evil is broken down and utterly destroyed! Until every last hint of sin is cleansed from this place!… FOR I AM HOLY! The only God whose name is One!

    Though it greatly pains My heart, a wound which shall last forever… Yet if I do not do this, My people shall never have a name, they shall never dwell in My holy place, they shall never see The Light or know life as it was in the beginning. Until the sanctuary is cleansed I can not dwell with My people, both with them and in them. Unless I make a full end, there can be no restoration. If I do not complete My task, never again shall I walk with My beloved in the garden, never again shall the little children come to Me and gather around.

    Open your eyes! Cast yourselves down!

    Let your hearts melt before The Holy Fire!…

    Embrace My Purifying Flame.

    My dying children! YOU ARE THE LAST GENERATION!…

    The last of these kingdoms of men.

    I love you… Yet you choose death! You have forsaken Me and forced My hand! The stink of your perversions fills My nostrils! Your murders stain My courts! The broken bodies of the innocent and the blameless are piled up in heaps, before My eyes!…

    And still you say within yourselves, “We have done no wrong, we have provoked no god to anger… There is no judgment to come. We do not retain God in our thoughts, His Law is far from us… We do not know Him, nor do we need Him”…

    O most wicked and loathsome generation! I HAVE SEEN IT!… I have seen and know! The Living God has come down! The Salvation of God is here!… He has seen and knows. He has searched, He has went through the multitudes and looked… He has looked deep within.

    He has called and pleaded… Behold, He has poured Himself out!… And still His life departs from this people. His light is all but gone from their eyes, as they fade into a slumber from which there is no escape, a sleep from which the wicked of heart shall never awake… Death…

    What a horrible and sad thing this is…

    What a mournful cry is heard

    From the mouth of The Holy One of Israel…

    “My people! Beloved children!…


    Thus I must finish My Book and close this chapter. For the desolate shall have no name, and this most wicked generation is cut off from their legacy. Their wickedness shall not rise up a second time! They shall never again pass this way or be seen of again… A whole generation of dead and dying people, a great multitude of peoples who refuse to drink… A great and mighty people slain by their own hand…

    A whole generation of children,

    Of whom I have loved with My whole heart…

    Even unto death…

    A whole generation wiped from the face of the earth.

    Even so…


  • andagain

    And if Christianity continues its decline there is no reason why the morals we currently share won’t change drastically.

    I find myself wondering if there is a correlation between atheism and libertarianism.

  • Dave Cockayne

    I’m an atheist and I don’t this article gets to the nub of moral change in Europe. The Ashkenazi Jews have a saying ‘the future belongs to those that show up’ and given the current demographic changes across Europe by 2050 we will have a very moral and religious population but it won’t be Christian, liberal, secular or tolerant. It is the inevitable result of not reproducing – you die out.

  • GraveDave

    It’s a myth to say Christianity is in decline. I’m not a Christian as such but I know more church going Christians now then I ever knew ‘back in the day’.
    And what’s more they all really do help people.

  • Liz

    Exciting times!

    Ethics based in reason, not prejudice. As a woman, I’m looking forward to it.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    A Londonistan bubble denizen talking to the rest of the Londonistan bubble denizens, and imagining that echo chamber to speak for “society” ?

    You muppets are so, so cute.

  • Man in a Shed

    Of course all this assumes there isn’t a God – and hence no hope of justice. There is no morality without God, only self justified savagery as the French revolution,S Russia, Cambodia and Communist China have demonstrated in the greatest evils ever to occur on our planet.

    • Maidmarrion

      Spanish Inquisition?
      Whose side is god on? That of the meek and downtrodden or that of the powerful and wealthy?

      • Martin Adamson

        Every atheist state has been a constant tyranny – the Spanish Inquisition was a 50 year stain on the 1700 years’ history of Spanish christianity.

        • chump23

          Franco was just great then?

  • Kitty MLB

    How are we evolving, why use that word?
    Almost sounds Darwinistic, how we continue as humans through the passage
    of time bound up within his little theory of atheism.
    Does morality come from God, and does morality depend on parents.
    It changes through time ( as you said ) its dependant upon the parts of the world we live in and the culture we follow.
    But the morality we as Christians follow, which is linked to the respect of humanity
    and compassion happens to be by so far superior. So I hope Christianity is not declining.

    • HookesLaw

      I think the Christian moral ethos is a sound one and as been interpreted better as time as gone on (rather than evolved). I think that if you are not a Christian you can follow the same precepts quite easily.
      I think Christianity has been misused in the past just as we see other religions being misused today.

    • MarilynLaCourt

      Check out humanism.

      • Kitty MLB

        Humanism, that sounds somewhat Godless. Is that where people
        make things up, obsess about nature and are buried in cardboard boxes.

  • GordonHide

    I think the rate of change of morality is speeding up but this has very little to do with the demise of Christianity although it may assist in that cause. Morality has always evolved in line with culture and the zeitgeist. Society is changing with technology and knowledge. These changes are accelerating. Religions, once their scripture is written down and become static, tend to atrophy and so become less practical for an advancing society. Certainly religious morals change over time but they tend to drag behind the moral zeitgeist in doing so.

    • HookesLaw

      ‘Society is changing with technology and knowledge’ – is it? If it is, is it changing for the better?
      Science and ‘knowledge’ is being b@sterdised over for example global warming.
      The science behind that is very thin and scientists are behaving in a grossly immoral way in order to perpetuate their hold over us and their own aggrandisement.
      Meantime society is left in ignorance. There is no openness at all.
      And this is only one issue. I would not put much ‘faith’ in science and technology. I might have more time for Dawkins if he demanded more rigour and less propaganda from the IPCC.

      • GordonHide

        re: global warming
        Every major national body of top scientists in the Western World, such as the American National Academy of Sciences and The UK Royal Society have issued statements to the effect that global warming is happening and human activity is contributing towards it. Now I know that this is only the argument from authority but scientists have repeatedly produced the goods and transformed the prospects for a long and happy life for large numbers of people.
        I dare say that you have been persuaded by some argument. I have not even listened to the arguments because I know that I’m too pig ignorant to assess them. I suspect that you and I both should be listening to such an overwhelming consensus because it’s our only rational course.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …it’s amusing that you’re having a go at Christianity, while praying at the church of global warmingism.

          • MarilynLaCourt

            Oh, please people do recognize the difference in the terms beliefs based on faith – beliefs based on beliefs without evidence, and beliefs based on trust, beliefs based on evidence and probabilities.
            Unless we agree on the terms we cannot possibly have a meaningful conversation.

            • Kitty MLB

              Faith is a gift and cannot be explained to those without.
              Also God and religion are not necessarily the same thing.
              You don’t actually have to attend church to be a Christian.

              • RobertC

                And you don’t have to be a Christian to attend church.

                And you might attend church and not be a Christian!

            • the viceroy’s gin

              Well, the church of global warmingism seems like voodoo, as most now are coming to understand.

          • GordonHide

            It’s amusing that you attack your opponents by accusing them of the very irrationality that you indulge in yourself. It’s heartening to know that somewhere deep down you realise your position is so weak.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              Sorry, lad, but you have no idea what I indulge in, other than your fantasies that you know exist “deep down” or whatever you’ve worked up in your rituals.

              However, I do know what you indulge in, because you’ve laid it out, and it is amusing that you whack Christianity and worship at the shrine of the global warmingists.

              • GordonHide

                If I was you I’d stop advertising your inability to think rationally. The fact you accuse me of worshipping shows that at some level you are aware of what a pile of dingos kidneys worship actually is.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Well, you’re definitely not me, otherwise you wouldn’t be railing on Christians while capering about in pagan worship of the global warmingists.

                  It is amusing though, lad. How old are you?

        • RobertC

          “I have not even listened to the arguments because I know that I’m too pig ignorant to assess them”

          A true believer!

          • GordonHide

            I make the best assessment I can of what correspond to reality. The fact that in this case this involves going along with the overwhelming scientific consensus certainly doesn’t make me anything like as gullible as a believer in religion.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …your global warmingism sounds like faith based claptrap to me, especially since we all know the planet isn’t warming.

              • GordonHide

                Yes it’s only the leading scientist across the Western world who think differently.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  And your faith based worship appears to include your chosen faith’s dogma.

                  Quite amusing, lad.

                • GordonHide

                  It occurs to me that you had a choice. You either take the
                  view that all the world’s leading scientists are involved in a global conspiracy and there is no global warming, or you assume that they know what they’re talking about as they usually do. The choice that you made shows that you have severe brain dysfunction along with holocaust deniers, young Earthers and homeopathy users. In the light of that I don’t think it’s worth talking to you any longer. Sorry to have wasted both our times.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  It occurs to me that you had a choice, and you chose the faith based church of global warmingism, even as you attacked Christianity. That’s what’s so amusing about your rap, lad.

                  You do have the global warmingist liturgy and scripture down pat though, I must admit. That’s common amongst you types. You study the sacred works and repeat them verbatim.

  • dmitri the impostor

    Morality is not only pre-religious but pre-linguistic. Some boffins did an experiment with capuchin monkeys. They got them to perform a task and rewarded one with a grape and the other with a dry biscuit. Dry biscuit monkey went apesh1t (hoho). Of course our primate brethren have a moral compass. But this provides no succour to evolutionists. Some animals have such a highly developed moral sense that they have been known to indulge in a bit of cross-species altruism. So Richard Dawkins can go take a jump too.

    • MarilynLaCourt

      Richard Dawkins quote “Reciprocal Cooperation is the best survival strategy for the survival of our species”.
      Google it. Nice guys finish first by Richard Dawkins.

  • Magnolia

    However friendly and however lovely a person is and how ever much they do good for others, an atheist will always let you down in the end and cannot be completely trusted. That is because they just do not believe in the ultimate sanction of a higher being who sees everything. The atheist will always put themselves first and will be selfish when they are presented with having to make a choice between your own and their self interests.
    I’ve seen bad character Christians who, because of their religion, struggle to do right and make a success of things and almost saintly atheists who let themselves down by grabbing a careless advantage for themselves.
    Christian teaching can make a good man out of a bad one but an atheist is alone at the mercy of his/her genes and the BBC.
    God help us, literally.

    • Keith D

      I’m happy to be at the mercy of my genes. And ecstatic I’m not at the mercy of damaged first cousin progeny ones.
      Atheists are not the enemy.

    • GordonHide

      On the other hand….
      Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. — Steven Weinberg

    • HookesLaw

      I’ve never read so much rubbish in my life.

      • JoeDM

        There’s lots of this religious nonsense about !!!!

    • JoeDM

      So someone who believes in the Flyings Spaghetti Monster will be more ‘moral’ than someone who doesn’t beleive !!!!!

      • MarilynLaCourt

        Oh my, YES!
        I am an atheist who loves Santa Claus. Santa Claus is a myth that children are expected to out grow. The Christ myth is one that grown people are expected to believe. After all they call themselves “children of god”.
        Pastafarians KNOW they have created an anology of christianaty and theu expect nobody to actually believe their spoof. Still, Poland has alledgedly recognized Pastafarinism as a legimite religion. Look it up on google.

    • John Court

      I had never heard that argument before – thanks for sharing it. It did make me think about the idea of a higher authority, and what drives morality at the moment.

      The morals of the church are so engrained that it is hard to see where disestablishing it will lead. I think it very likely that we will end up with amorality and the kind of selfish indifference to others that one encounters in big cities.

      I suspect that the morals we still encounter in society are a short term legacy of religious parents, and will quickly evaporate. At that point society at large will be little more than savages who obey the rule of law only to the extent that it is enforced. Almost anything is up for grabs – the value of human life being the obvious one. Maybe that’s going to be necessary with a population expanding out of control.

      I would think that many people commenting here actively consider morality and would be unlikely to commit crime even if they could get away with it. This will apply less and less to the population as a whole which could easily become increasingly anarchic and barbarian.

      Wouldn’t it be easier if everyone just went to church until they are old enough to question the evidence themselves?

      “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”

  • dado_trunking

    Have the Dutch not faced this conundrum centuries ago and in recent times?
    How did they fare? Did society collapse or have they found a way to uphold moral code and ethical principles?

    • Martin Adamson

      Is this the same Netherlands where old people are afraid to go into hospital for fear that they will be murdered by doctors?

      • Retired Nurse

        the same country that recently sanctioned the ‘euthanasia’ of children….yup!

        • MarilynLaCourt

          To whom does your body belong… to your god, to your government, to your doctor, to your family, to your psychiatrist, or……. oh my to yourself?

          • MarilynLaCourt

            We have all these slippery slope arguements against euthanasia, but where are the slippery slope arguements against using drones to kill innocent people in other courtries, people who “don’t want to die?????
            Let’s talk about THAT!

    • the viceroy’s gin

      How do you socialist nutters always fare, lad?

  • Martin Adamson

    Our contemporary atheists are in for a nasty shock. The whole fabric of Christianity – the churches, cathedrals, painting, sculpture, liturgy, music, education and discipline – was created in order that Christians should be constantly surrounded by moral teaching and example. Sometimes it failed, sometimes it worked. Now that all these structures are being demolished, no efforts are being made to replace them. We will soon find out if individual, isolated humans are capable of spontaneously creating and enforcing an entirely new common set of morals. Will this new common morality more closely resemble Ghenghis Khan than Richard Dawkins? I know where I’m betting.

    • HookesLaw

      Where are churches being demolished?
      Most of the great churches and abbeys were built by either Kings who wanted to control people by religion or by the Church who wanted to rival the King. Heny Vlll put a stop to the latter.

      • Martin Adamson

        Please stop embarrassing yourself, the great cathedrals of Europe were built by citizens of independent towns. There was no King of Italy, for example, Italy was divided into hundreds of small city states, the citizens of which vied with each other to build greater and more beautiful buildings. Same is true of Flanders and Germany. Medieval Kings seldom had the money to do any building – indeed it was only by confiscating Church property that centralised monarchical states evolved.

        • HookesLaw

          Ah the cathedrals of Europe. OK.
          Indeed I have seen some amazingly poor places in Europe, well they must have been poor then, which have the most lavish churches. Its hard to equate this richness with its surrounding poverty. You have to think the money could have been better spent.

          Edward the Confessor started building Westminster Abbey and Henry lll carried on. I am happy to agree that the medieval church was wealthy until Henry Vlll stole it all. It saw itself as a rival to the Kings authority. Whether it was in the name of the crown or church medieval people were brow beaten by the misuse of religion. Its left us with some nice buildings

          • MarilynLaCourt

            The white house in Washington DC was built by slaves.
            Go figgure.

            • BC

              Can’t even spell! Why should we even bother?

            • AndrewMelville

              Actually it was a brick house. It was only called the white house after they had to whitewash it to hide the burn marks. We burned it down to avenge the Yanks’ war crime of burning down the town of York (now Toronto). Typical Yanks – celebrating a loss. It’s the same as their national anthem. It celebrates that we didn’t capture Fort Baltimore, although we did blow the city to smithereens after burning Washington and forcing their Presidend and Congress to flee in panic to avoid capture.

          • RobertC

            “You have to think the money could have been better spent.”

            Yes, and often! Every today, when I see on what other people spend their money, I am appalled at their poor choice.

          • monty61

            Have you any grasp of British history at all?

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        In the southwestern corner of France you see churches that had Reformation vandalism inflicted on them. Not much left beyond the 10 Commandments. Down the road are Catholic churches; stained glass windows, statues, wood carving, paintings … Full of ecclesiastical works of art. Then you tumble to the real purpose; to impress the mug punters. Bit like dressing the invisible man, now you see him, but you don`t. You just see the clothes; the external trappings.
        So don`t be so impressed by the exterior decoration that you abandon your logic and critical faculties. All that tat will one day be swept aside and as religious buildings take on a new role. Art gallery, boutique, supermarket … I`m sure something will come up.
        Jack, Japan Alps

    • telemachus

      There needs to be foundation for a moral compass

      And that foundation must take heed of the social principles of St Paul

      For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

      2 Corinthians 8:13-15

      • tjamesjones

        so you want a theocracy telemachus?

        • telemachus

          It is the matter of fairness
          If that can only be gained by theocracy so be it

          • Martin Adamson

            And who gets to define what is fair?

            • telemachus

              Use your loaf
              Whatever advantages the maximum number of folk

              • Martin Adamson

                Ah, the fundamental building block of every totalitarian regime in history then.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Eric Bloodaxe? Doesn`t he play right tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers?

    • Roxane Featherstone

      The thing is Martin, we don’t need to replace Christian or other religious structures for moral conveyance with more of the same. We have other ways of doing it now, (the internet) and moral development therefore has the means to happen quickly.

      The other reason why atheistic morality is likely to develop more quickly, and which perhaps already explains why modern atheistic societies don’t resemble the Mongol Empire and indeed are far more peaceable and less crime-ridden than anything else in history, is because moral arguments that are based on explanations rather than diktat have a greater chance of evolving.

      Indeed many familiar with scientific methodology, (contra Kuhn, but pro-Popper), take it as pretty axiomatic (tentatively of course though) that one should change one’s mind for evidence and the better explanation. This, even without the internet, would doubtless speed the process of moral improvement..

  • la catholic state

    Yes we will evolve… a nightmarish atheistic police state in the mold of Soviet Russia. We will have no rights….except the right to be a worker (atheistic Tory policy) and the right to sexual immorality. The family will have little or no rights…..and may be criminalised…except for gay ‘families’ of course. Sweden is already well on the way to this dystopia….with paedophiles being entitled to adopt children…..and any unapproved opinion ie criticism of Islam or immigration already outlawed.

    This is the abnormal evil society that atheism breeds. Of course as it goes against natural law it will not last long…..which is why our leaders are so keen on mass Islamic immigration to make sure it fills the eventual void. Christians…..take note and remember all our leaders are anti-Christian really.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Well, they’re post-Christian, to be precise, which may be the same thing in effect.

  • Perpetually Astonished

    Really, the startling fact is the extent to which the originally Jewish idea of the sanctity of the lives of those within the community has managed to survive the onslaught upon it by Christianity. Christianity is a religion, like all of the Abrahamic faiths, that is red in tooth and claw. If Christians have been a tiny bit less drawn to killing in the last century, they have nevertheless to this day maintained that the sanctity of life is contingent and hypothetical imperative. Christians don’t refuse to take part in wars and bless the troops; they are in some places fervent supporters of capital punishment and repressive blood stained regimes.

    So, yes, morality may be evolving in our increasingly secular age, but given the moral history of the Abrahamic religions we may have reason to be relieved. At the very least we won’t have to put with up hypocritical nonsense about the sanctity of life being spouted by people who mean the sanctity of their (and their friends and follower’s) lives.

    • Andy

      But isn’t atheist, the secularist, the ones who were ‘red in tooth and claw’ ? All the tyrannies of the last century had one thing in common: they were atheists. Lenin & Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Saddam, Gaddaffi the list goes on and on and on. And they all killed on a scale that is quite breathtaking.

      • GordonHide

        Hitler wasn’t an atheist. Indeed that is one of his complaints against the Jews n Mein Kampf. What is certain is that almost all the people who actually carried out the killings of which you complain professed some religion or other.
        You will find that the most honest and law abiding populations in the world belong to the countries with the highest levels of organic atheist. By organic I mean atheism not promoted by government or a political ideology.

        • Martin Adamson

          “Hitler wasn’t an atheist. Indeed that is one of his complaints against the Jews n Mein Kampf.”

          At the time he wrote Mein Kampf he had become a politician seeking office by winning elections. In a largely Christian country like Germany he naturally had to pose as a defender of Christianity. By the time his dictatorship was secure he was free to reveal his true opinions to his inner circle, and those were profoundly atheistic.

          And I note your profoundly theological distinction between “atheists” and “organic atheists”. Do atheists need to have a Pope to tell them what is and is not real atheism? You’ll be setting up an Inquisition next!

          • HookesLaw

            Well you are right there.

          • GordonHide

            Whatever Hitler’s philosophy you can be sure he wasn’t burdened with an excess of rationality. He had weird pseudo Darwinian ideas about the destiny of the German people. He certainly wasn’t an atheist although he wasn’t a Christian. His idea of God was similar to that of ancient man: a superman with exaggerated bad character traits.

            If Hitler had written Mein Kampf for general consumption he wouldn’t have written an anti-Semitic diatribe on every second page. If Mein Kampf had been widely read among the German public he wouldn’t have gotten even the 37% of the vote that brought him to power.

            As for my remarks about organic atheism, I want to distinguish the countries I’m talking about from places like China where people become atheists to kowtow to the establishment in order to get on in the world.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …and what distinction do you draw between China and places outside China?

              • GordonHide

                Am I going round in circles here? In China atheism is mostly not organic. That’s also the case in other communist or ex-communist countries. You have to go to Western Europe or Japan to find large scale organic atheism.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Well, you said in China “people become atheists to kowtow to the establishment in order to get on in the world”, which all sounds familiar to most of us in the contemporary West. So again I ask you, what distinction do you draw between China and places outside China?

                • GordonHide

                  I’m not sure you can be as obtuse as you appear. Are you trying to wind me up? In China one kowtows by becoming atheist in non-communist countries one kowtows by doing
                  whatever it is that their establishments prefer.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …again, you appear driven to demonstrate alignments between China and the West, as opposed to illuminating disparities. That post is similar to your others.

                  Can you document any distinctions between the two, lad?

        • Andy

          Sophistry. Hitler was not a Christian. He might have been born into a Christian family, but you will find he rejected Christianity and actively persecuted it. Stalin had even started to train as a priest, but that didn’t stop him trying to destroy the Orthodox Church, killing priests, destroying churches and burning Icons. What drove that persecution was militant atheism – ‘religion is the opium of the masses’. And what you conveniently ignore is the fact that all the tyrants I mentioned also indulged in the cult of personality. This coupled with any religious morality brought about mass murder on a breathtaking scale.

          • GordonHide

            I’m afraid that’s just what you would like to believe. It’s just not possible to create a causal link between not believing in gods and murdering people. Communists murdered priests for the same reason that French republicanism did, because religion was in league with the ancien regime and worked actively to restore it. It’s much more likely that communist and French republican anti-clericalism motivated communist and French atheism rather than the other way round.

            • Andy

              And that makes it all ok then ? Communists and Socialists and Fascists all murdered priests because they were, like the revolutionaries of French ‘anti-Clerical’ and decidedly anti Christian. Atheism is linked to all these wicked and evil regimes and it is quite possible to make a link between their beliefs and their actions. But you carry one believing it is not so if you wish.

              • GordonHide

                If you think that godlessness leads to immorality you must ask yourself why atheistic Buddhists are no more violent than theistic Buddhists. Or why the godless Jains, one of the oldest religions extant in the world are committed to non-violence even in self defence.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Atheists are actively against religion, those groups aren’t.

                  Atheists murder in volume, as you’ve been told above. They want to kill those who disagree with them. It’s unique to atheists, as you mention.

                • GordonHide

                  Only a minority of atheists are anti-theists. It’s theists who are almost universally anti-theist as far as everybody else’s religion is concerned. “Those groups” as you call them are as much atheistic as any other atheists.
                  You should remember that most of the people who do the actual killing will be theists. At the time of the holocaust or the Stalin purges there just wouldn’t have been enough atheists to do the job.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  No, the killing is done by atheists, lad. In volume. History is quite clear on all this. Mao, Hitler, Stalin… they do what atheists do, as we know… murder in volume.

                  Spare us the atheist sophistry, lad.

                • Andy

                  You are waffling around the main point, and that is that all the great tyrannies of the 20th century were atheist. And they all murdered on a breathtaking scale. Now why do you suppose that was ?

            • The original Mr. X

              “It’s just not possible to create a causal link between not believing in gods and murdering people.”
              Maybe not in the sense of “There’s no God, therefore I have to go out and kill lots of people,” but there is a case to make that humans naturally have rather unsavoury tendencies, and atheism, by removing one of the major checks upon those tendencies, makes people more likely to indulge in them. Sort of like how taking the break off your car won’t directly cause your car to roll down the hill, but it does remove the main thing stopping it from doing so…

              • GordonHide

                No, humans do not have naturally unsavoury tendencies. That’s just what your priests tell you to justify their existence. In fact humans are social animals genetically programmed to co-operate with one another. Unless they have a physiological deficit or they have been conditioned otherwise humans naturally feel compassion for one another.
                As previously mentioned you will see that the most religious states in the US are the one’s with the highest crime rates and prison populations. Perhaps someone forgot to put the brakes on.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  The most criminal states have large metropolitan cities populated with psychotic lefty dogma, and thus more crime, particularly violent crime. Try Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadephia, Los Angeles, etc.

                  You can pass that claptrap around if you want, lad, but it won’t fly.

                • GordonHide

                  Well unfortunately there is no easy to access data by city. However there is data by state:


                • the viceroy’s gin

                  There is no easy access for sophists, lad.

                  However, for those interested in reality, FBI crime data is readily available, and we all of us understand that lefty dogma leads to murder in cities, and skews the state data.

                  How old are you, lad?

                • The original Mr. X

                  No naturally unsavoury tendencies? Huh, I guess we can just disband the police force tomorrow then to save money, followed by the army, and, in fact, the whole government. I mean, if people have no unsavoury tendencies, they surely won’t need to be coerced into living together in a workable society.
                  As for the religion/crime rate thing, if you look at actual individual people, religiosity is a predictor of more pro-social behaviour.

                • GordonHide

                  If the tendencies to antisocial behaviour were stronger than social tendencies society would collapse. As people prefer to live as part of society it stands to reason that most of the time they are treated in a civilised way.
                  That does not mean that it’s not worth trying to enforce even greater adherence to the law. But society would still function if we did away with professional law enforcement whish is in fact a comparatively recent innovation in historical terms.
                  Your suggestion that we look at anecdotal data about behaviour rather than the published statistics is foolish. Perhaps there’s a giant conspiracy amongst statisticians to hide the truth from us?

                • The original Mr. X

                  First of all, I never said that “tendencies to antisocial behaviour were stronger than social tendencies”, just that they exist.
                  Secondly, when did I ever suggest looking at anecdotes rather than public statistics? There have been plenty of statistical studies comparing religious people with non-religious people.

      • JoeDM

        Hitler was a catholic.

        It is perfectly possible to have traditional Conservative views and not have to believe in any sort of god.

        • tjamesjones

          no, he wasn’t. Hitler was a secular social darwinist, he believed in German prevailing in a racial struggle. See, e.g, his life and everything ever written about hitler such as Hitler a Study in Tyranny by Alan Bullock

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            You jokers keep trotting out that “Hitler was an Atheist” lie. He was a Catholic, so suck it up. Austria tries to convince everyone that will listen that Hitler was born in Germany, but that`s a lie too. “Welcome to Austria; birthplace of Adolf Hitler.”

            • GraveDave

              He was such a Catholic he kept spies in the pews to keep tabs on any criticism coming from the priests. Also what is rarely mentioned is that a few good Catholics helped run an underground from the Vatican to enable Jews and other persecuted minorities an escape route.
              They made a film about it with Gregory Peck.

    • Rtort

      This is beyond words. Groan….!

    • The original Mr. X

      Great, I suppose that next you’ll talk about how people who believe in freedom of speech can’t be against slander, blackmail and inciting violence.
      Also, “red in tooth and claw”? Sure, there have been plenty of violent and brutal Christians, but if you compare Christianity to what came before it, I think you’d find that not all religions are equal when it comes to promoting violence.

  • Fergus Pickering

    I note your curious use of ‘evolved’.

  • London Calling

    Quite a lot to take in Ed, but I agree we as a society are growing in morals, in general most people have empathy, which is a great quality to have and also grow with……..
    however i fear a population explosion as we creak around the edges in our towns and cities, therefore to protect that which we cherish about our Island and people we need to show compassion at home first and not leave our borders wide open………visitors are more than welcome……………….:)

    • Rtort

      GROWING in morals…GROWING…? As far as morals are concerned we are certainly ‘nicer’ to one another but GROWING? Descending into a dark age more like. God have Mercy!