The New Statesman asked various people from AC Grayling to PZ Myers to explain why they did not believe in God. This is my response. The full set of replies is here.

I am an atheist because I see no need for God. Without God, it is said, we cannot explain the creation of the cosmos, anchor our moral values or infuse our lives with meaning and purpose. I disagree.

Invoking God at best highlights what we cannot yet explain about the physical universe, at worst exploits that ignorance to mystify. Moral values do not come pre-packaged from God but have to be worked out by humans through a combination of empathy, reasoning and dialogue. This is true of believers too: they, after all, have to decide for themselves which values in their Holy Books they accept and which they reject. And it is not God that gives meaning to our lives, but our relationships with fellow human beings and the goals and obligations that derive from them.

God is at best redundant, at worst an obstruction. Why do I need Him?


  1. god is like Santa and the boogey man – a means to control behavior through a threat and reward system that doesn’t require the active participation of the person doing the controlling

    reject god and do not participate in other people controlling your behaviour

    knowing the difference between good and evil is to be without a need for gods – that’s why it’s the xtian original sin – not needing a god

  2. Interesting but I believe that religious ethics is superior to atheistic ethics. I won’t say that former is altruistic and latter is selfish, both are selfish because the reward and punishment in hereafter for our actions and motives in this world, is also selfishness. But religious ethics is superior because unlike secular ethics that only takes into account the legality or illegality, or social acceptance or inacceptance of an action, attitude or behavior, the religious ethics also takes into account the motives and intentions behind the acts. As Kant rightly puts it that the only absolutely good thing is a good will. That coupled with proper knowledge of moral principles and the context of the scenario is the ultimate good in my opinion.

    • I don’t take moral guidance from the deranged psychopath that appears in bronze-age holy books. If I had written the 10 commandments, I wouldn’t have wasted 4 of them on obedience to me while omitting “Do not commit rape” and “Do not own slaves or tolerate slavery.”

    • Abu Awama – First, you seem to be confusing ‘secular’ and ‘consequentialist’ ethics. There are plenty of secular-based moral viewpoints – from virtue ethics to Kantianism – that take account of motives, intention and context. Indeed, some forms of consequentialism do too. Second, what distinguishes ‘religious ethics’ is not the content but the argument about why we should be moral. Most religious ethics borrow deeply from secular needs and ideas, which is why, for instance, what constitutes Christian ethics has changed dramatically over the past 2000 years and why different Christians today have every different ethical stands on issues from abortion to homosexuality to war. What really distinguishes religious ethics is the claim that concepts of right and wrong are defined by God. And it’s this alienation of morality to another sphere that makes religious ethics so problematic.

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