Our continuing moral depravity

Everyone who knows me, knows that I’m an atheist, and that I think religious inspired moral values are backed by vapor. If I were going around kidnapping teenage prostitutes, violating and humiliating them sexually, and then chopping off their heads with a chainsaw and burying them in my backyard, there would be no spiritual punishment upon my passing. (To be clear, I am not doing this. It’s purely coincidence that several teenage prostitutes have gone missing in the four mile area surrounding my house.)

However, unlike many atheists, I’m not convinced that the world would be a better place if it lost its religious moral values. The Templeton Foundation (an organization which admittedly has a bias towards offering an intellectual defense of religion and spirituality) notes the following in relation to the recent youth riots in Britain.

… Arthur, dean of the education college at the University of Birmingham, led a research team that produced a 2009 report on the crisis of character among England’s underclass teenagers. The report, produced as part of the John Templeton Foundation-funded Learning For Life UK program, warned that many English teenagers living in urban deprivation were disconnected from both their communities and basic morality.

Not all underclass English youth are in such dire moral circumstances. Arthur found that Muslim teenagers who shared the material poverty of their white and black neighbors nevertheless were far more educated in the virtues and faithful to civil society’s values.

By contrast, the white and black youth the Arthur study examined were far more likely to come from broken or dysfunctional families, and to have little or no religion at all. This too is not surprising to Arthur, who said that the rapid secularization of Britain, along with a post-1960s ethos that focuses more on rights than duties, has caused young Britons to lose touch with their moral traditions.

“No government or other secular tradition, has been able so far to replace the Judeo-Christian moral tradition,” Arthur said.

A grim Arthur declared that we may have entered “a new moral Dark Age,” driven in part by the loss of faith in transcendent values and the decline in authority among society’s institutions. This is not, he fears, only a British problem.

“I fear that most of America is only 20 to 30 years behind us,” he said. “And I don’t believe we’ve seen the end of this. These young people have done it once, and I think they’ll do it again.”

Some of this is, I suspect, the inevitable gloomy view every older generation takes of the younger generation. And, there were a lot of youths rioting in Paris a couple years ago, and I believe many of them were Muslim. I also think there’s a lot of strong indications that to some degree morality is built into the brain — we are intrinsically uncomfortable performing immoral acts, particularly violence, regardless of our religious upbringing (well, most of us anyway — psychopaths would be a clear exception.) That said, I think this guy is onto something. And it’s fair to worry about a society that loses its religious moral center.

1 Response to “Our continuing moral depravity”


  1. John Saleeby

    Correct about “a society that loses it’s religious moral center” – The Future is going to be miserable. You need more than Cigarettes and Alcohal! There’s more to it than Cars and Girls!

    Swords up and knock the shit out of everybody! With the sweet love of Jesus in our hearts!

    - Barry Hannah