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Atheism needs no Testament

Published:Saturday | August 1, 2015 | 8:00 AMDr Ethon Lowe

Martin Henry in his article 'Atheists need a New Testament', published July 26, made many claims which have no factual bases. Atheism is a lack of belief in a god or gods. It has nothing to do with belief. It needs no testament. It is not a faith (as Henry would have us believe). Unlike atheism, Christianity changes its testament (the Old Testament and violent God, to the New Testament and peaceful God).

He is a communications specialist (as I recall), and if so, there is nothing more egregious than a misguided and deluded communications specialist. He needs a lesson in history, and indeed one is never too old to learn. If Mr Henry was genuinely interested in the truth, he would analyse his arguments critically. But, already stuck in his faith, he is not questioning, he is defending. His first blooper is, "the founder of Christianity is Jesus Christ". It was the Apostle Paul and his followers who defined what became Christianity, not Jesus.

His claim that the Christian society created modern science is delusional. Modern science did develop in a Christian milieu in the hands of scientists who were indeed Christians (Copernicus, Galileo, Newton etc.). Christianity only had to adapt to embrace those pagan values that drove scientific progress such as reason, logic, mathematics and philosophy, and craftily invented Christian arguments based on scriptures, revelation and inspiration. Christianity in fact impeded the rise of modern science (dissection of cadavers was outlawed and more recently there are issues with contraception and stem cell research). Atheism is no impediment. To the contrary.

He says: "There is no moral imperative in atheism as there is in Christianity". Where does Christianity get its morality? From the Commandments? The first four (do not worship idols, kill your neighbour if he mows his lawn on Sunday, etc.) are hardly exemplars of good moral behaviour. The others are vague. Should we honour evil fathers and mothers? What about killing in self-defence and war? What about rape and incest? The New Testament is no better. Give away all your possessions, take no thought for tomorrow (consider the lilies)? Certainly not a livable morality. While morality for atheists comes from within humanity, Christians believe they are accountable not so much to people but to God.

He further claims: "Only the Christian culture has ever repudiated and abolished slavery on moral grounds". Reliance on Biblical authority was instrumental in promoting and maintaining slavery, and it was only by shifting to secularised, economic and demographic factors that a greater impact was made on abolition. The arguments of British abolitionists like William Wilberforce and the black abolitionist and former slave, Frederick Douglass, show how little they appealed to the Bible to support their cause.

Another claim: "It was the Christian society which anchored freedom in parliamentary democracy". Taking the constitution of the US as an example, the founding fathers although mainly Christians, devised their government directly from reason and observation from the natural world not from God or the laws of Moses. That's not a foundation of Christian principles; that's a foundation of atheistic naturalism.

Atheism and humanism are about people and human needs. They require no belief in an afterlife. They require no belief in another world. This is their world. They require no promises of rewards or threats of punishment. They require only reason and kindness to make this world a better place.

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