values, morals and ethics

Listening to Robyn Williams’ interview Richard Dawkins at the Sydney Writers Festival reminded me that some (a lot ?) of people appear to think that without religion a person is without values, morals and ethics.

Religion does not necessarily make you a good person. As Dawkins argues, there are nice and nasty people who are religious and there are nice and nasty people who are athiests.

From the interview transcript:

“Richard Dawkins: There are nice people who are religious and there are nasty people who are religious. There are nice people who are atheists and there are nasty people who are atheists. I don’t think it really helps very much to point to particular examples because you can always point to counter-examples. It is interesting to ask whether there’s any general reason why being religious might make you do nice things or indeed nasty things. Maybe there are. I mean, it’s possible that people do nice things because they’re religious. One reason might be they’re hoping for a reward in Heaven, which is not a very noble reason.

Another reason might be that there’s lots of charitable money sloshing around. Religious organisations have an automatic fast track to getting charitable tax free status. I don’t know what it’s like in Australia but in Britain and America, if you can call yourself a religious organisation, a church, if you call yourself a reverend, you’re automatically tax free. Well, if you’re getting tax free money-tithes, for example-you blooming well ought to be doing some charitable work because it’s tax free.

Similarly, if you look back over historical time, the churches, especially the Roman Catholic Church, were huge hoovers, magnets for money. They got enormous wealth, which I would call fairly ill-gotten, and they ought to be spending a lot of that money on doing good works. It would be terrible if they didn’t.”

Also, this week’s Southern Gazette (community newspaper) has two articles about a local school chaplain paid for by the Federal Government’s National School Chaplaincy Programme and benefiting from funds from the City Council. I disagree with our council using resident funds for this purpose.

If a particular religious group feels that they need a chaplain, then they themselves should fund these services or attend their religious institution and seek help. Counselling roles in schools for children and their families should be filled by a trained psychologist or counsellor that fills the position in a professional capacity, i.e. without bias to a particular belief.

While some people think that sport is a religion in Australia, I would like to think that Australia’s elite sportswomen and sportsmen maintain and improve their well being by utilising the services of psychologists not chaplains.

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