Monday, 15 August 2011


The subject I observe presents such problems.

I was part of a government think tank looking at OFSTEAD inspections of schools; one of the things they look at is the moral part of the schools ethos.  My problem is how does one obtain morals?  In my small discussion group there where Moslems, Catholics, Jews, Evangelicals, and humanists; all of us apart from the humanist agreed that morals have to come from some kind of Law giver, and actually in all of our thinking that must be God, apart, that is, from the humanist, who said there isn’t a God so morals must come from somewhere else.
I went on to argue that in terms of generosity, in such things as tsunamis, famines and the like the UK is actually quite generous in its giving, I put this down to the Judeo Christian influence in the background of the nation. The humanist said, “now don’t be silly, its due to the fact that we were once great colonists.”   To which I responded, “I thought that was about greed, trade, and getting lots of things for ourselves?”
I was one of those interviewed by Richard Dawkins for his ‘Religion is the root of all evil’ programmes. After which I found stuff all over the internet, usually from many of the so called ‘learned’ atheists poking fun at my opinions.  Funnily enough I have read Richard’s book, The God delusion, and one of the things that struck me is how often the base of whom we are and where we are comes down to ‘luck’, at least according to that book.  God seems a better thesis to me.
And of course both in the programme, on the net, and definitely in Wikipedia comes the discussion of mortality.  I am amused that in at least one article, the fact that we live in a moral universe and one ‘without God’ according to the ‘atheists’ is argued from the fact that some fish have a symbiotic relationship with ‘cleaner’ fish, the action of the one fish on the other fish actually protects them; therefore arguing that we don’t go around on our streets killing each other because it’s wiser not too.  One of the things that Richard Dawkins said to me in the interview for his programme, (which I have not seen on the programme or the Utube repeats, so I guess it’s on the cutting room floor), was, Richard said “I am more righteous than you. “ I of course said, “Oh and how is that?” to which he replied, “I don’t go around pillaging and raping, and I don’t need a God to stop me, you need one to stop you.” To which I answered, “bully for you, you maybe ought to watch the news!”
One Swallow does not a summer make.
 Richard Dawkins often says that being an atheist is not one with a depressing philosophy, actually he say it makes one appreciate life more and love life.  Again I say, ‘bully for you’, the problem is that you don’t have to travel very far to find people who are starving, people who have been enslaved, people who have every reason not to love life, if you now want them to believe that this atheism is the truth, and not be depressed by such a philosophy all I can say is HELP!  It’s the most depressing view of life that I can imagine; 
So where does morality come from, I note that even some of the comments on what I think that are listed in Wikipedia note that I am saying that we live in a moral universe, and there is a base line for morality and that comes from somewhere, God I would say.  Yes that is what I am saying, morality without a giver is craziness, it is not morality; as Charles Finny would have put it: “Opposed to this is willing self-gratification; a practical treating of self as if the gratification of our own desires, appetites, etc., were of supreme importance. Now in this ultimate choice of the good of universal being, or of self-gratification as an ultimate end, moral character must reside. Primarily, surely, it can reside nowhere else. It is this ultimate choice that gives direction and character to all the subordinate actions of the will; that gives direction to the volitions, the actions, and the omissions of all our voluntary lives. This ultimate choice is the root or fountain from which all volition and all moral action spring.”
 I guess even Richard would agree with some of that, as the basic premise is that morality only comes from our own selfishness to survive or not be killed that is why we don’t have mayhem on the streets.  Although I wonder if we perhaps do, I live in an area where we have postcode crime, knife and gun crime, so the morality is you don’t live in my postcode area, you are there so you need killing. That seems a great morality!
Going back to that statement I made earlier, ‘bully for you’, seems to take no note of the Hitler’s, Pol Pots, and Stalin’s of this world, which again makes me think if morality is only up to our moving to a value system that selfishly benefits us only, and we can get around it, then why not? If it is to my benefit to circumvent the law? If there is not ultimate sanction or moral law giver?
It has always interested me that the Bible talks about giving ‘light’ to every person who comes into the world. What is that light? Personally I have always seen that light as being that conscience that dwells in each and every person.  We can obey it or disobey it, it is, if you like, a little bit of God in us, if we obey it we feel good, if we disobey it we feel bad, but it does not force us either way, we have the freewill, we have choice.  Again to quote Finny on conscience, he talks about moral insanity:
“Moral insanity, on the other hand, is will-madness. The man retains his intellectual powers unimpaired, but he sets his heart fully to evil. He refuses to yield to the demands of his conscience. He practically discards the obligations of moral responsibility. He has the powers of free moral agency, but persistently abuses them. He has a reason which affirms obligation, but he refuses obedience to its affirmations”.
So where do I think morality comes from? I think it comes from the law giver - God, he has created, and designed a moral universe, a universe that ultimately works towards the best good for all, the created order, us, and God too.  We can pretend it is not there, we can work against it, we can listen to our conscience, we can ignore it, but none of those things make it not there.

Adrian Hawkes
For Wikipedia
For Adrian’s Blog
Edited by: Technicolour text
W. 1175.


  1. Peter Bayliss
    Great ideas..... I love your thinking....

  2. Chris Chessum

    Morality is not something stagnant and immutable. On the contrary, morality has evolved throughout the years of human existence and it is constantly developing and changing even now. The morality of the New Testament is one in which slavery is quite acceptable. The Apostle Paul tells slaves to “..obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.” Ephesians 6:5. Not particularly good, moral advice by today’s standards, would you not agree? Even within my life time, morality has changed. Racism has not been eradicated but it is certainly much more taboo now than it was when I was a child. So too is intolerance towards gays and lesbians.

    You make a very good point about the conscience; “ if we obey it we feel good, if we disobey it we feel bad.” It seems to me however, that this is not something innate. It is something that has to be nurtured and cultivated, preferably from a very young age. Good parenting, stability in the home and family life, good education and culture all play an important part in developing and nurturing one’s sense of morality. This is where people get morality from and it has taken human existence a very long time to develop these structures. I’m sure you must have felt as depressed as I did last week when I saw the scenes in Tottenham and Wood Green. Young men and women looting shops, damaging property and destroying the homes of others. It’s a wake up call for all of us illustrating what can happen when there is bad parenting, low education, lack of any constructive culture and deep divisions in the community. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

  3. Chris Chessum
    I would not deny some of the good things that have come as a result of religious establishments. The church, the synagogue and / or the mosque or temple provides of a focus point which enables people to come together and this creates a sense of community. What can be wrong in people coming together and making music, singing hymns, having discussions and fellowshipping with one another?

    What I object to however, is the frequent assertion from believers that one cannot have any sense of morality unless one believes in a god of some sort. I’ve yet to see any evidence from my own experience of life or from my reading of history that religious people have a monopoly on morals and ethics. Belief in God does not guarantee good behaviour. The child abusers in the Roman Catholic church did not commit these crimes because they lacked faith in God. They committed these hideous crimes despite their faith. Faith in God did not help them.

    In some cases, not only does faith in God not help someone: on the contrary, it actually helps to sustain them in their atrocious behaviour. Lets not forget, child genital mutilation is faith based. Suicide bombing is again, faith based. Humanism does not try to hide behind a divine dictator. It asserts that progress can be made by means of human reason based on a need for human solidarity. As a humanist I take full responsibility for the consequences of my actions. If I screw up it’s my fault and I am to blame, no one else. Yes human reason is imperfect and it is fallible. But look at the chilling consequences of the alternative theistic position. The moment you say, “I’m doing this because God requires it of me;” you are no longer responsible for the consequences of your actions. God is. And if you accept that, what do you say when a believer tells you, “God requires me to chastise my wife” or “God requires me to blow myself up and those around me.”

    There are so many points to address in your article Adrian, I don’t think I have time to deal with all of them otherwise my response is probably going to be longer than your article. Just briefly to say, yes I agree with you, Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin were evil men. You could also have mentioned Mussolini, a devout Roman Catholic. The point is Adrian, none of these were Humanists. To join Hitler’s NAZI party by the way, one had to take an oath which included swearing allegiance to God. It was by no means a secular organisation. Stalin was indeed an atheist but not a humanist. All the more reason why secular humanist principles of liberal democracy are important so that faith and power is not vested in a single dictator/law giver.

    Finally, again I would have to agree with you when you say “ don’t have to travel very far to find people who are starving,…who have been enslaved, ..who have no reason to love life.” You could also include people who have suffered terrible cruelty in war and / or have lost relatives and suffered horrific injuries in natural disasters such has earthquakes and tsunamis. Many of these people were probably believers in God. Indeed in the circumstances it would futile to try and have a philosophical discussion with them about atheism or any other kind of philosophy. It would not help them in their hour of need any more than God did. So your point is????

    Must go now Adrian. I wish you all the best.

    Chris Chessum

  4. Chris Chessum
    This should really be at the top of the comments....

    Dear Adrian,

    I’ve just seen your blog and the article you wrote about morality. The question you raise; ‘where does morality come from?’ is an interesting and an important question and I thank you for raising it. I thank you also for being fair minded enough to invite responses. I tried to respond to your blog but for some reason I couldn’t get site to take my comments. So here’s an email response instead. The answer to the above question is a complicated one and I’m afraid you have over simplified these issues and I don’t think you have understood the humanist position.

    Okay, so lets take the argument that morals come from a law giver, that is to say, God. The immediate and most striking problem with this proposition is that the community, who believe in the existence of God, don’t actually agree with each other (with the exception of a few basics such has “Thou Shalt not Kill” and “Thou shalt not steal”) as to what those laws are. Christians will tell you it is immoral to have more than one wife. Not so for Muslims. Muslims and Jews will tell you it’s wrong to eat pork. Not so for Christians. Surely the advantage of having a single law giver is that it should at least be clear as to what it is that the law decrees. That does not appear to be the case and it is one of the reasons I don’t think that belief in God is terribly helpful in terms of helping people to determine right from wrong.

  5. Angus Murray
    Sounds like an interesting discussion group, bet the so-called 'intellectuals' were the most dogmatic!

  6. Rosie wrote:
    "I am with you Adrian I would rather have a God conscience than one of my own (that one tends to get me into trouble) Hi to Pauline for me"