Britons View Atheists As More Moral Than Believers, Religion More Harmful Than Good

This post by Frank Minero originally appeared at Addicting Info.


An eye-opening survey conducted in the UK reveals a truth many in the United States will find shocking. When asked if atheists are more or less moral than religious people, our allies across the pond favor atheists.

The British feel those who identify as atheists are more likely to be good people. In fact, 12.5% of Britons believe atheists are more moral, while only 6% say atheists are less moral.

Fewer than a quarter of Britons believe religion is a force for good. On the contrary, over half believe religion does more harm than good. Even 20% of Britons who describe themselves as ‘very religious’ are on record stating religion is harmful to society.

The poll, conducted by Survation for the HuffingtonPost UK’s series Beyond Belief doesn’t address why Britons have come to this conclusion, however faith in God and religion is falling in America as well. Jerome Baggett, a professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California told The San Francisco Business Times why he thinks people are retreating from religion in the United States,

“Religious institutions themselves have lost their legitimacy in the eyes of many Americans due to sexual and financial scandals, or political overreaching ‘by the so-called Christian right.’”

Linda Woodhead, professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University, told The Huffington Post UK she found the results of the poll “striking,”

“This confirms something I’ve found in my own surveys and which leads me to conclude that religion has become a ‘toxic brand’ in the UK. What we are seeing is not a complete rejection of faith, belief in the divine, or spirituality, though there is some of that, but of institutional religion in the historic forms which are familiar to people.”

Woodhead explains the reason Britons are distancing themselves from religion are “numerous” and include: sex scandals involving Catholic priests and rabbis, as well as Islamist terror attacks and conflict in the Middle East,

“I’d add religious leaderships’ drift away from the liberal values, equality, tolerance, diversity, [which is] embraced by many of their own followers and often championed by non-religious and atheist people more forcefully”.

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association had this to say,

“This survey just confirms what we know is the common sense of people in Britain today – that whether you are religious or not has very little to do with your morality. Most people understand that morality and good personal and social values are not tied to religious belief systems, but are the result of our common heritage and experience as human beings: social animals that care for each other and are kind to others because we understand that they are human too. Not only that, people understand that religious beliefs themselves can be harmful to morality: encouraging intolerance, inflexibility and the doing of harm in the name of a greater good. We only need to look around us to perceive that fact.”

In an unrelated video, noted American author, philosopher, and neuroscientist Sam Harris offers a detailed explanation of why he feels morality based on the Christian God is lacking.

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  1. Propaganda is created for causes. Atheism is not a cause and atheists are not members of a group. We don't get together and plot how to unravel the world. We simply don't believe in tooth faries, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, religious faith and other nonsense. It doesn't mean we don't value good things that people who believe in nonsense do. We have our own nonsense – but we know it's nonsense.

  2. The great traditions or Religions like christianity and islam are social codes written down many hundreds of years ago by men. Whether or not you want to believe in them and follow them is a matter of personal choice but it is clear that they cannot help us move forward to address the challenges of the time most notably climate change. The codes were written in prescientifc age. I would like ‘science’ to become an alternative option when we are asked to give our religion in official documents. Atheist is too broad a term because it includes those who believe in markets and money and personal accumulation as goal of life.

    • When you write, "atheist is too broad a term", that indicates you, yourself, don't understand what you're writing about. Anti-theism does not equate to atheism. It is simply a rejection of the assertion, "there is a god". That's it. The fact that many atheists happen to be liberal does not mean atheism means liberal. That's like saying "religion" means the rejection of "personal accumulation" as you put it. We know that's not true as the Catholic Church killed off the Cathars specifically because the Cathars were ascetics. They rejected the accumulation of wealth and adopted a life of extreme devotion and poverty. The Catholics couldn't abide that being a core tenet of any Christian religion. So in 1184 by a papal bull of Pope Lucius III, the 1st Episcopal Inquisition was established "For the purpose of doing away with Catharism". So no, there are no tenets of atheism outside of the rejection of the assertion, "there is a God or Gods". That would take a belief system or philosophy.


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