Tuesday 9 August 2011

Anarchy in the UK — can I blame the Christians?

Reports of violence, looting and arson in many places throughout Britain in the last few days is met by peace-loving, right-thinking people with nothing short of bewilderment: what on earth do these looters think they're doing? How can they possibly believe they have justification for lawlessness and criminality of this kind? How can they do these things and live with themselves?

Perhaps I can offer a hypothesis. Nothing more — this is not a researched analysis, just a thought, based on recent discussions in various places (notably on the Skepticule Extra podcast).

The perpetrators of these crimes, it would appear from news reports, are mostly young. Where do they get their moral guidance? In days gone by they would have received it from religious sources, in school, in church, from their parents. These days, however, young people see through the associated baggage that accompanies religious morality. They see that the God-myth is just that — an unsubstantiated fantasy with little relevance to their everyday lives.

Recognizing the God-myth for what it is may not be difficult. But there's a harder question, which is this: where does morality come from?

The answer given to this question, I contend, may lead to a mindset allowing the lawlessness witnessed this week. Religious apologists — in this country mostly Christian — insist that without God-given morality you have no basis on which to distinguish right and wrong. Advocates for humanism have long argued that such a claim is unfounded, but Christians stick obdurately to the idea that without God, "everything is permitted". This is false, but enduring. It's this nihilistic notion that appears to have permeated the minds of lawless youths tossing petrol bombs into high-street shops. They've rejected the God-myth, but unfortunately bought into the Christian proprietorial account of morality.

But you can be good without God, and the insistent Christian denial of this fact has, in my view, contributed to the current trouble.