Morality: Big “M” and little “m”

I had the pleasure of discussing morality and atheism with a commenter who I would assume is a Christian although his/her actual beliefs haven’t been specifically discussed. In responding to the second of two posts the commenter left, I realized that I rambled on far longer than a general comment, so I thought I’d go ahead and repost it as a separate post of its own.

In this post, you’ll see me discuss the capacity for Morality (big “M” ) among humans, giving rise to the cultural establishment of moral (little “m” ) codes. I make an analogy to the human capacity for Language (big “L” ) which gives rise to the cultural establishment of languages (little “l” ). I don’t know if this analogy holds -I haven’t really thought it through- and I’m not arguing that the capacities of Morality and Language are part of the same genetic mechanism or have the shared origins.

I’ll begin with Robin Leboe’s comment today and follow with my response, both of which can be found in the Myths of Atheism: HIlter/Stalin/Pol Pot were evil because of atheism thread.

Robin Leboe, on July 1st, 2008 at 8:26 am Said:

Leaving aside the definition of atheism for the moment, the properties of atheism can be examined regardless of how it’s defined. For instance, one attribute of atheism I’m sure we can agree on is the lack of a transcendent source for an objective moral law.

If there is no transcendant being then any truly objective principles under girding existence are illusory. Your reference to evil in the post above hangs in a vacuum. Any attempt to codify right and wrong takes a leap into another realm i.e Platonic ideals.

Right and wrong are simply not an inherent property of ‘being without gods’ and morals are relegated to utilitarian, pragmatic, subjective or emotive trappings. A function of culture at best or the opinion of an individual at worst. Neitsche was very honest in driving home this point when writing of the ‘death of God’.

It is this lack of ultimate moral arbitration that people often point to when they speak of the atrocities advanced by cultures who have, by your definition, disavowed themselves of a belief in God.

On the other hand, atrocities committed by religious zealots can clearly be seen to be in opposition to the moral law they espouse. The teachings of Christ leave no interpretive room whatever for the inquisition or crusades. Many societies and institutions have been hijacked by lunatics, both theist and atheist. As it is often said, it’s not a good idea to judge a philosophy (or faith) by its adherents.

Thanks for the cordial discussion and taking time to respond to my previous reply.

I’m willing to take the transcendent source point further and say that you can insert “for anything” after “transcendent source.”

Transcendent refers to that which is “beyond comprehension” or “independent of the material universe.” I, of course, see no good reason to believe such a definition is needed since there is no evidence of anything existing “beyond the material universe.” In addition, I see no reason (and history bears this out) that this material universe can at least be potentially comprehended. I concede that I know very little of the universe and will likely learn only a fraction more when compared with the potential things that can be known, but I refuse to accept that there is anything unknowable about the universe or that anything exists beyond the knowable universe. Gods, magic, ghosts, and hobgoblins included.

But that’s me. If anyone knows otherwise and can demonstrate that knowledge, however, I’m open to revising my position.

Moving on to your other points, the very argument that morality is “divinely established” is an argument that isn’t sound nor is it cogent. That’s because the premises fail. If the conclusion is “God establishes morality,” then the premises followed by the conclusion must be:

  1. humans have not the capacity for morality without God;
  2. only God can provide morality;
  3. morality exists in humanity;
  4. thus God exists and establishes morality.

The premises fail for several reasons. The actual god in question is not identified. There are thousands upon thousands of extant and extinct religious cults in human history through present day, most with pantheons of gods. Yet, morality has flourished throughout human history. Were humans prior to the very recent cults of Judeo-Christian doctrine immoral? Hardly. We have a very detailed and accurate account of moral behavior in ancient societies. Indeed, our own democratic-republic form of government is based largely on one such pantheistic, but moral, society.

Further, there are countless similarities cross-culturally that exhibit very similar moral behaviors that are independent of a single religious superstition. For instance: in no extant or extinct culture that I’m aware of is it morally acceptable to murder one’s parents in order to take their property.

Very clearly, the preceding two paragraphs show that morality is a human endeavor and not a divine one and, therefore, humans provide their own morality, much in the same way we provide our own language. Language (big “L” ) is a human endeavor. We establish individual languages (little “l” ) based on the capacity for Language. Perhaps the human establishment of morality is a function of the capacity for Morality (big “M” ) [incidentally, I’m hypothesizing here more than arguing a position in order to show that divinity need not be the answer when one is ignorant of an explanation].

The only premise in the divine establishment of morality argument that is valid is that humans have morality. If morality is established by humanity (since it exists cross-culturally, independent of religious doctrine, and prior to modern concepts of God, then it clearly is), then humans have the capacity for morality without gods and gods are not necessary to provide morality.

The very evidence for the existence of morality and zero evidence for the existence of God invalidates nearly completely the argument that morality is established by God. There is, of course, the slim chance that a hidden god has created morality -but this begs the question and provides not a single bit of cogency to the argument. After all, how would one know he/she was praying to the right god if that god is hidden?

I won’t pretend to know why humans have a capacity for Morality any more than I know why they have a capacity for Language or Music. There is much about cognitive science that is unknown (though advances in the last decade are tremendous!), but I certainly see no logical or rational reason to settle on a god-explanation simply because I don’t have an answer. Thankfully, there have been enough rationally minded people in the history of scientific discovery who have sought answers beyond the god-explanation for lightning, weather, crop failure, disease, etc

Thank you again for taking the opportunity to post on an atheist blog and participating in discussion. I realize that many of the blogs and forums in the “atheosphere” are rather harsh and hostile to Christian and theist posters. I also realize that my own casual use of terms like cult, superstition, and the like are likely to be taken as offensive to the believer and religious adherent, but is an honest position and opinion that I hold and not intended to be solely pejorative.

Myths of Atheism: Hitler/Stalin/Pot Were Evil Because of Atheism

In his encyclical released on Friday, Pope Benedict states atheism is responsible for some of the “greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice” in history [1].

Did Pope Ratzinger skip the new-pope class that explains the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades?

This is a common myth that arises during debates with theists or in theistic arguments as in books or articles, particularly with Christian theists. The argument goes something like, “of course atheism is bad for the world, just look at what Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot did in the name of atheism [2].”

On the cuff of it, the argument is one which is post hoc ergo propter hoc, that is to say, it’s a false cause fallacy. More subtly, the argument is also an ad hominem, since the theist that argues this point is attempting to discredit his atheist opponents. The theist is safe in making his claim that atheism leads to evil since he has plausible deniability since, ostensibly, he’s only making an argument against atheism. However, this only holds true if the claim itself is true. As a simple argument form, it would be:

If atheism leads to evil, it cannot be true.
Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot were atheists.
Atheism cannot be true.

However, as you can see, there are some problems with the argument as a modus ponens. The conclusion does not follow from the premises, and this is why:

1) There is no reason why truth cannot lead to evil.

2) Premise #2 is really a complex premise that contains one or more sub premises. It assumes factually that these three personalities were indeed atheists, that they were indeed evil, and that their evil was informed by their atheism. Even if the first two of these sub premises were agreed upon, and it seems reasonable to do so, there is no reason to believe that their atheism informed their evil actions. In fact, there is ample evidence to suggest that at least two of the three personalities were significantly influenced by religion, specifically Christianity, early in their lives.

3) Since premises 1 and 2 do not hold up, the conclusion cannot follow from the premises.

As an ad hominem argument, the Hitler/Stalin/Pot argument is typically a tu quoque, or “you too,” made in response to the claim that religion is responsible for the deaths of millions through the inquisition, Crusades, genocides, New World invasion, etc.

Never has a causal effect been demonstrated by any historian (much less a theist in a debate) between atheism and the actions of, say, Stalin. Stalin ordered the deaths of thousands because he deemed them a threat to his government –a government that was dogmatic and powerful. Indeed, on could easily argue that Stalin’s position was that he “replaced” God and inserted himself as the national deity with statues and portraits in all public (and many private) lands and buildings. Those that carried out his death warrants did so because they believed in Stalin –because they “worshiped” him.

There are no gulags or concentration camps in recorded history that were designed to fulfill a “lack of belief” in something, which is what atheism is. None were constructed to destroy lives out of reason or rational thought, which is what informs the atheistic conclusion.

For another post that gives a very good treatment of yet another Myth of Atheism, see Vjack’s Atheism Does NOT Require Faith, which posted just yesterday as I was writing this. These are the sorts of things I’m glad to see Atheists write about and, perhaps, I’ll put together a set of links for reference to these and other Myths of Atheism posted here and elsewhere in the near future. I’ve some good ideas for the “Pages” feature that comes with WordPress, so keep checking back.

Notes

[1] Catholic News (11 Jan 2008). Hope encyclical rejects atheism.

[2] D’Souza, Dinesh (2007). What’s So Great About Christianity?: Chicago: Regenery Press, p 221. “the indisputable fact is that all the religions of the world put together have in three hundred years not managed to kill anywhere near the number of people killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades […] Atheism, not religion, is responsible for the worst mass murders of history.”

The Recent Harris Poll on Belief

Harris Poll Interactive conducted a recent poll in November in which they sampled 2,455 American adults and asked a variety of questions regarding the their beliefs, mostly religious, though they did poll with questions about UFOs, ghosts, reincarnation, and the like.

The tables of some of their results can be found at Harris Poll Interactive, but I’ve put some of these results in graphic format should anyone wish to use them. If you do, I only ask that you include a link back to Breaking Spells.

What Was Believed

I can’t help but wonder how many people answer polls like this based on what they want others to think about them rather than what they really believe. I’ve always had a hard time accepting that people truly believe in virgin birth and miracles to the degree represented above. Surely there’s more hope that miracles exist and that Jesus was born of a virgin than actually fully believe it. But its interesting to see that evolution edged out ahead of creationism, particularly given some of the other responses about miracles, and the “word of God” (below).

Word of God

What? The Book of Mormon isn’t strongly held to be the “word” of God? And what’s the deal with the Old Testament slightly beating the New Testament? This is a bit telling if you ask me: Christians are slightly more willing to accept that OT is the “word” of God over the NT -and it’s in the OT that some of the best hatred and bigotry can be justified.

How Religious People Are

And it’s also interesting to note that the “not at all religious” and “not very religious” categories together out-weigh the “very religious” category.

Anyway, these types of polls are often difficult to accept since even the methodology section of the Harris Interactive site doesn’t reveal enough details to know how effective the pollsters were at delivering the questions or what most of the actual questions were (or their contexts). Even the tone of voice carried by the pollster can influence the answer.

I’ll still add these graphs to the Data page along with a citation and link.

Bill O’Reilly Interviews Atheist Lori Lipman Brown

On December 6, O’Reilly interviewed Lori Lipman Brown, the former Nevada state senator and currently the director and lobbyist for the Secular Coalition for America. This was in the wake of the Mitt Romney’s speech on “why my Mormon faith isn’t a problem.”

Brown’s interaction with O’Reilly was very good and I think she did a decent job holding her own and representing the rational perspective. She took umbrage with Romney’s statement that American’s believe in God, pointing out that he completely ignored 30 million plus non-religious (secularist, atheist, and agnostic) Americans.O’Reilly made the usual ass of himself by creating the ad hominem arguments against those that don’t accept his superstitions by referring to them as “whining” several times.

Predictably, O’Reilly makes the usual nutjob claims about the U.S. being founded on belief in God, etc., to which Brown successfully counters by pointing out that the United States is not ruled by the Declaration of Independence but, rather, the Constitution, a document which specifically omits talk religious and god-talk by design since those that wanted a secular nation won that argument then.

She also puts him in his place with the “incessant whining” ad hominem by pointing out that 30 million people were excluded and Romney is running for an office that represents all Americans.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from vodpod.com posted with vodpod

Atheist Soldier Threatened -a Veteran’s Opinion

 

VJack [Atheist Revolution] has a post up on the recent plight of Jeremy Hall, a Specialist in the U.S. Army stationed in Iraq, and a true hero. Not only is he serving his country in a combat zone, but he’s also standing up for the United States Constitution and the very Freedoms that he swore to uphold when he joined the military. SPC Hall, I salute you.Hall’s plight is one that involved his attempt to organize a group of atheists and non-Christians for a social meeting approved by an Army chaplain. One of the attendees turned out to be a Christian and an officer that had nothing good to offer to the group. Indeed, he ordered the group to discontinue the meeting and threatened his junior with non-judicial punishment. These are acts of cowardice such as this on the part of Major Welborne, the Christian who allowed his religious delusion to override his rationality and duty as an officer in the US Army. Duty, honor, country are buzzwords I’m sure this disgrace to the uniform I once wore likes to drop at cocktail parties at the Officer’s Club, but I doubt Welborne truly understands their meaning. It would appear, instead, that he fits them into his own religious delusion, preferring that Christianity be imposed upon all soldiers, regardless of their own beliefs. Ironically, this is the very nature of the enemy Welborne istasked to combat: the Muslim extremists who think that anyone who chooses to leave Islam should be put to death and those that aren’t yet Muslims should be converted or killed.Does that make Welborne a terrorist? With the constantly moving goalposts of that definition in our current administration, who can really say? But there’s no doubt that, for his patriotism, Hall is being terrorized. After being named a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and after he refused to join hands in a cult prayer at an earlier time, Hall has had his life threatened on various blogs and directly threatened by members of his unit. When your faith requires that you threaten others who question it, is it really all that good of a faith?Its clear that religious nutters within the military have an opinion on how religion should be treated and presented, but what does the official word say?Army Regulation 165-1, Chaplain Activities in the United States Army, includes the following:

Even though the chaplain is an ecclesiastically endorsed representative of his or her faith group, the chaplain has the responsibility to confront the command when the religious rights of any soldier are affected (AR 165-1, 1-4, b).

“Religious rights” also includes the right not to have a particular religious cult imposed upon a soldier that doesn’t believe in the cult’s doctrines. Indeed, this regulation is contrary to the coerced participation in cult activities and prayers that Hall was subjected to. If anyone should be subjected to UCMJ action, it is the officers in charge of these events.

The Army recognizes that religion is constitutionally protected and does not favor one form of religious expression over another (AR 165-1, 3-3, a).

Expression of one’s lack of religion or one’s opinion of religion is also a form of religious expression.

Distinctive faith group leaders may provide ministry on an exception to policy basis when military chaplains are not available to meet the faith group coverage requirements of soldiers and their families.Distinctive faith group leaders—(1) Are normally volunteers.(2) Do not function as military chaplains.(3) Must be sponsored and supervised by an assigned chaplain.(4) May receive offerings at services they conduct with the funds being handled IAW chapter 14 of this regulation.(5) Will receive no payment for their services, travel, or other expenses from APF (unless under contract). Military members will not be paid. However, if these leaders are nonmilitary full-time ordained clergy, they may be contracted. Pay rates will not exceed the contract prices for civilian clergy contracted with APF.(6) Will not perform collective Protestant services (AR 165-1, 5-5, a, b)

Hall’s meeting adhered to these requirements.Army Regulation 1-211, Attendance of Military and Civilian Personnel at Private Organization Meetings, includes the following:

Attendance at meetings at Government expense will be authorized only when information gained will substantially benefit the approving authority’s mission (AR 1-211, 4).

Hall’s meeting of atheists and non-Christians did, indeed, benefit the unit, the approving authority of which the chaplain represented. Soldiers who find themselves in the midst of so many religious nutters, who are forcing their religious doctrines upon non-believers, and coercing non-believers to participate in cult activities like prayers, will likely feel alienated and alone. By allowing them to meet socially and discuss their worldviews, the non-believers in the unit would find support and human fellowship with likeminded individuals, having a positive increase in their esprit de corps as they continued with their daily mission for the unit. Any commander that wouldn’t allow these individuals to meet on their own time has another agenda that overrides his or her military mission.Department of Defense Directive 1300.17, Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Services, includes:

3.1. A basic principle of our nation is free exercise of religion. The Department of Defense places a high value on the rights of members of the Armed Forces to observe the tenets of their respective religions. It is DoD policy that requests for accommodation of religious practices should be approved by commanders when accommodation will not have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, standards, or discipline.

While the language of both of this directive is geared toward individual religious cults like Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, Hindis, etc., it doesn’t take much effort to infer from it the intent, which is to allow soldiers who have a diversity of religious opinions and beliefs to feel comfortable and secure and to express these opinions and beliefs where appropriate as well as included to foster a sense of esprit de corps.As a 12-year veteran of the US Army (1984-1996), I understand the necessity of esprit de corps and having strong morale while taking part in extended combat operations.

4.3. When requests for accommodation are not in the best interest of the unit and continued tension between the unit’s requirements and the individual’s religious beliefs is apparent, administrative actions should be considered. These actions may include, but are not limited to, assignment, reassignment, reclassification, or separation. Nothing in this Directive precludes action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (reference (d)) in appropriate circumstances.

This part of the DoD directive is interesting. For the unit commander with a head on his or her shoulders, for a commander that has his or her unit’s mission as primary goal, recognizing that not all the soldiers in his or her command is a Christian and may actually have other, or even no, religious beliefs would be something that commander should be aware of and be willing to address. And the best way of addressing such an issue would be to allow alternatives for these soldiers to express themselves or to associate with each other without the influence of Christianity; and certainly without Christian believers coercing them. The result would be that these soldiers would feel included and a part of a team that has diversity. Such esprit de corps creates the sense that one belongs to something greater than a religion or a religious opinion; and as a former military leader, I know of nothing greater to belong to than a unit that respects its members and where its members respect each other –regardlessof internal disagreement or shortcomings.Stand your ground, Jeremy Hall. You’re a hero.Edit: This is a re-post from my previous blog at blogspot (which was, for some reason, removed by blogger -no word yet why). VJack has since created another post on this topic that is certainly worth reading, as are the comments: Atheists in the Military [atheistrevolution.blogspot.com]

Related Links

  • Army Violates Religious Freedom [Atheist Revolution]
  • Atheists in the Military [Atheist Revolution]
  • Urgent Issues [Military Religious Freedom]
  • God Fearing Christian Soldiers Threaten Atheist Soldier for Expecting Equality
  • Morality and the Humanist-Atheist

    It is a common question of the religious, particularly the Christian, to ask when confronted with the atheist, “what keeps you from killing, raping, and doing whatever you want?” I’ve encountered this response enough that I think that the religious adherent, particularly the Christian, honestly believes that the source of their morality is their God and their Bible. It’s interesting that the Christian doesn’t consider that morality exists cross-culturally and is evident in human history prior to Christianity. If morality is informed by the Christian God, then why does the Muslim profess moral principles? Why does the Hindu? Why does the member of the Navajo nation? And, what about the West African tribesman? Are these people immoral, deliberately violating moral principles? Are they amoral, living without any concept of morality?

    The short answer to the Christian who asks where the atheist’s morality comes from is that it comes from the same place as that of the Christian: human experience and the intuition of right and wrong. The Christian attributes this understanding of morality to their religious upbringing, but studies have demonstrated that morality is understood beginning at age 2 and 3 as toddlers begin understanding that hurting others is wrong [1]. Of course, it’s easy for the Christian to attribute this understanding among their children to their Christian lifestyle, but that doesn’t explain why the children of non-religious families have equal understandings of right from wrong.

    People express morality in a variety of ways. For many, racist behavior goes against their moral principles –that principle being that racial discrimination is wrong; this might inspire someone to be careful that they aren’t giving the appearance of being racist and plan actions accordingly through moral reasoning; to use a racial slur or not is to employ the moral concept of “right from wrong;” we can criticize the decisions others make on the basis of racism, forming a moral judgment; and by admitting to ourselves that a racist should others fairly in spite of skin color differences, we admit to having moral feelings.

    I use the “racist” example on purpose because it was only a few short years ago in American history that the same religious doctrine that informs Christian morality also informed many Christians that racial oppression was a morally correct concept. Indeed, this same doctrine once considered the Navajo nation, along with the other 500 or so aboriginal nations of people that populated the North American continent to be godless savages, exempt from the “golden rule,” which suggests that one treat others as one would wish to be treated. So my short answer above may actually be wrong in hindsight: Christians don’t obtain their morals necessarily from the same place as the atheist or the humanist.

    I’ll not quibble with the fact that the morality taught by the mythical figure, Jesus Christ was, for the most part, admirable. “What would Jesus do?” is a powerful statement (it really is a statement more than a question) to most Christians, but when compared with supposed “Christian values” and “Christian morals” of modern Christians, it fails. Being Christian doesn’t guarantee moral behavior.

    Some of the most heinous crimes committed include those committed against children, bringing to mind the pedophile priests of Catholicism. But lest the Protestants think they’re exempt, let us not forget the Houston mom that drowned her 5 children one-by-one. And what did Andrea Yates tell her prison psychiatrist?

    “It was the seventh deadly sin. My children weren’t righteous. They stumbled because I was evil. The way I was raising them they could never be saved. … Better for someone else to tie a millstone around their neck and cast them in a river than stumble. They were going to perish.”

    If I were a Christian apologist, I’d argue that I’m cherry-picking a few isolated cases and that Christians are human and, in spite of their strong moral values and training, even they can be afflicted with evil. But, how then, does the Christian explain the data that indicates that the very immoral concepts that Christians are most vocal about are often the ones they have the most problems with? I’m speaking of abortion, murder, and the sanctity of marriage among others.

    Abortion rates among religious societies are significantly higher than that of secular ones. Some of the highest rates of abortion are in the United States (23 per 1000), one of the most Christian nations on the planet. In places like Western Europe where religiosity is low, abortion rates are low (11 per 1000) [2]. Homicide was, likewise, positively correlated to religiosity with the United States leading the world, per capita. In the U.S., the homicide rate exceeds Western Europe’s by 4 to 1 and Japan’s by 7 to 1 [3]. With so many Christians in the United States openly objecting to same-sex marriage based on the “sanctity” of this institution, one might expect them to be setting the example. However, U.S. Divorce Rates by religion reveal:

    Jews 30%
    Born-again Christians 27%
    Other Christians 24%
    Atheists, Agnostics 21% [4]

    Why don’t Christians, or for that matter, Jews (who also frown upon the practice of divorce), have lower rates of divorce than atheists and agnostics?

    The answer is that morality is a human concept, informed by human experience and human intuition. To the humanist-atheist, there is no escape-clause of getting forgiveness or atonement from a deity for immoral acts. We act and behave as though life is sacred not because it was divinely given until some mythic afterlife occurs, but because it is the only opportunity we have to make a mark on this planet and our actions affect those we come in contact with as well as those that follow us. We don’t require the threat of punishment by an invisible deity or an eternity of torture in a “hell” to treat other humans with dignity and respect. Nor do we need the motivation of eternal life to seek to better our world and improve the lives of others if we’re able.

    Sources
    [1] Tisak, MS & Turiel, E (1984). Children’s conceptions of moral and prudential rules. Child Development, 55 (3), 1030-1039.
    [2] http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/25s3099.html (1999 data)
    [3] http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html
    [4] http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm

    Is Religion Just a Social Program?

    In Breaking the Spell, Daniel Dennett ends the book with a chapter titled, “Now What Do We Do?”, in which he poses the title question with regard to breaking the spell of religious belief. His answers focus on the continued scientific study of religion and belief and the continued examination and inquiry of religion by those interested in the phenomenon. He also advocates dialog and discussion among the religious and the non-religious. But, as informative as his book is, I think he falls short in this final chapter. What’s missing are suggestions for the non-religious to begin a process of replacing religion or at least setting religion aside as no longer needed.

    In an earlier post, I described some of the hypotheses of why religion exists and why humans are so universally drawn to it in so many different flavors. In another post, I examined one of the hypotheses that describe the evolution of religion as a social institution, as presented by Robert Bellah (Five Stages of Religious Evolution). Each of these assumes that religion is a social construct of humanity, evolved to fulfill social needs.

    But what if religion, in general, is just a social program of sorts? What sort of evidence would exist to support that hypothesis?

    First, religion would serve to provide for the down-trodden of society –the less fortunate who cannot provide for themselves without outside assistance. Ideally, such a social program seeks to get the individual going along so that the training wheels might come off, as it were. Faith based organizations exist to provide food and shelter for the homeless, assist the addict in getting clean or sober, providing shelter for battered women, and to bring comfort, companionship and outreach to the elderly or disabled. These are, of course, just a few social services provided by faith-based organizations, and their effectiveness is debatable: some more effective than others.

    Second, religion would serve to provide enhancement to the existing routines of the individual: youth outreach and mentorship; day-care and parenting skills classes; life coaching and motivational groups; counseling for marriage; etc.

    Third, for religion to be considered a social program, it would include fellowship opportunities that increase community involvement. This might include pancake breakfasts, community-wide flea-markets, plays, performances, concerts, car washes, and so on.

    Of course, religion provides all these services and more to the community.
    I, for one, don’t believe for a moment that only religion can provide these services. But for religion to no longer be necessary, it might be required that secular organizations do a better job at replacing religion in these areas. If humanist organizations are developed to fill the need for social programs (women’s shelters, outreach for homeless & elderly, afterschool programs, etc.), this would give viable alternatives to religious organizations, allowing those dismayed with their results to choose other programs. Even five years ago, it was apparent that faith-based initiatives were not living up to their expectations:

    After five years of aggressively implementing a Bush-style faith-based initiative in Texas, positive results have proven impossible to document or measure,” Samantha Smoot, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), said at an Oct. 10 Capitol Hill press conference. “Evidence points instead to a system that is unregulated, prone to favoritism and co-mingling of funds, and even dangerous to the very people it is supposed to serve.” (Faith-Based Failure [AU])

    Secular community involvement becomes incumbent upon secular humanists and atheists interested in seeing the influence of religious-based organizations that provide inadequate, dangerous (abstinence only programs to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa), and ineffective programs or services more interested in proselytizing or indoctrinating others in their myths or ideologies.

    A List of Secular charities and services that I’ve been able to find:

    1. 4H (http://www.fourhcouncil.edu/)
    2. American Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.asp)
    3. American Foundation for AIDS Research (http://www.amfar.org/)
    4. Americans United for the Separation of Church & State (www.au.org)
    5. Amnesty International (http://www.amnesty.org/)
    6. Atheist Charity http://www.atheistcharity.org
    7. Doctors without borders (www.doctorswithoutborders.org)
    8. Earthward (http://www.earthward.org/)
    9. Girl Scouts (www.girlscouts.org)
    12. Heifer Project International (www.heifer.org)
    13. Humane Society (www.hsus.org)
    14. Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries (http://www.hivos.nl/)
    15. Humanitas (http://www.humanitas.nl)
    16. Mama’s Kitchen (http://www.mamaskitchen.org/)
    17. Nature Conservancy (tnc.org)
    18. Oxfam (http://www.oxfam.org/eng/)
    19. Planned Parenthood (www.plannedparenthood.org)
    20. Population Connection (www.populationconnection.org)
    21. Public Radio (www.npr.org)
    22. Rails to Trails (www.railtrails.org)
    23. Red Cross (www.redcross.org)
    24. Sierra Club (http://www.sierraclub.org/)
    25. UNICEF (www.unicef.org/)
    26. United Way? http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/6440129.htm?1c
    27. V (Jim Valvano) Foundation for Cancer Research (www.jimmyv.org)
    28. Women for Women International (http://www.womenforwomen.org)
    29. World Wildlife Fund (www.wroldwildlife.org)
    30. Zoological Society of San Diego (http://www.sandiegozoo.org/)

    Alcoholism/Substance Abuse Recovery:
    31. Moderation Management (www.moderation.org/)
    32. Secular Organizations for Sobriety (http://www.cfiwest.org/sos)
    33. SMART Recovery (www.smartrecovery.org)
    34. Women for Sobriety (www.womenforsobriety.org)