Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Can there be good without God? an honest atheist response
Last week I was in a team of Christian theists, debating a team of atheists at Flinders University. The question was Can there be good without God? (Here is what I said and here are some reflections on the nature of a debate).
I realised over the weekend that I probably left my conclusion at home. Here it is, part of an Easter sermon from 2009 – from an article, written for the UK Independent newspaper, by a man called Matthew Parris. Titled As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God.
The article tells the story, of how Matthew grew up in Africa, became a journalist, declared himself an atheist and became a well known gay rights activist.
In 2008, he was invited back to Africa by a charity. This is what he wrote:
“travelling in Malawi refreshed …[a]… belief … I’ve been trying to banish all my life …. an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God. Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced …. [that] In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”
Parris goes on to say how he used to accept Christian involvement in Africa only because it was practical. Shame about the God stuff, the wierd Christian beliefs in things like resurrection.
Because at least Christians were doing something practical and useful. Let them carry on because they care for sick and teach people to read and write.
But, says Parris, he can no longer avoid the facts. When you travel across Africa, says Parris, you I’m quoting again.
“Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers … but more open … It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. [Yet t]heir work was … influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.