ST: You don’t need faith to be good

A letter written by our President Paul Tobin in responses to negative mention of “godlessness” in ST Saturday special which suggested that godlessness is cause of teenage gang activity. Here’s are two screenshots of the ST feature:

godlessness ST fullpggodlessness ST

In response, Paul explained in the absence of religion, one can be moral too.

Published version can be found on this blog (you need to scroll down):

Original copy:

Godlessness not necessarily a bad thing

In the article “Making Faith Cool”, published Section D of the Saturday 27th November 2010 edition of the Straits Times, it was written in the standfirst that religious groups are “determined not to lose a generation to godlessness, especially now with youth gangs in the news.” Senior reporter Lee Siew Hua also wrote in the article that “what is at stake” is the potential of losing the youth to “cynicism, violence and even fanaticism”.

These remarks may be misconstrued as prejudice against those without any religious affiliation.  The last census in 2000 shows that roughly 15% of Singaporeans do not have any religious affiliation.  Her suggestion essentially claims that this group, “the godless”, are cynical and prone to violence. As a society for non-believers, the Humanist Society (Singapore), rejects such suggestions.

The reality in societies around the world is that there is either no difference between non-believing youth and the religious youth in their propensity toward violence or there is actually higher levels of violence among those who identify themselves as “religious” or “faithful.”   [See, for instance, the studies cited in Michael Shermer’s book “The Science of Good and Evil” 2004 pp. 235-236]

As for cynicism, there is certainly no correlation between non-belief and a cynical attitude. Many non-believers are involved in the world around them, trying to make it a more humane, compassionate place. The two largest charitable donations in the history of the world were by atheists: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates donated US$30 billion and US$11 billion of their wealth respectively to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, a charitable organization whose main goals are to enhance healthcare and reduce poverty worldwide. This writer personally knows many non-believers, people who identify as humanists, atheists and agnostics, who regularly donates to charity and/or do volunteer work for various humanitarian causes.

The misinformation in Ms. Lee’s article shows why The Humanist Society (Singapore) has an important informative role. One of our main goals is to show the society at large that one does not need to have a religion in order to lead a good, happy and meaningful life and to have compassion for our fellow human beings.

For version of article published in the ST, email us.