Does atheism make sense to you

Are there values ​​without belief?

Sweden versus the USA

Can a person without faith have values? Do pious people live more morally? For a new study on this, Americans on the one hand and Swedes on the other were tested. . On the one hand, a country in which belonging to a religion - preferably a Christian one - still plays a major role: According to the authors of the study, it would be difficult for an atheist to be elected president in the USA, for example. The opposite pole to Sweden is a secular country in which, according to the researchers, religious affiliation plays a very subordinate role.


A sense of justice

Even the atheists questioned thought it was possible in advance that the virtuous believers would outstrip them in matters of morality. But it is not like that. Both groups equally develop a sense of justice. They notice injustice, recognize when other people need help - and thus demonstrate moral standards. The only difference, the scientists write, was that the religious respondents had a little easier time coming to a moral judgment. They allow rules to apply to themselves and relate to the community. The atheists had to form their judgments on a case-by-case basis. You thought about the consequences of your actions. This was the case with respondents in Sweden as well as the United States.

The social-psychological study does not ask about the reasons for this only small difference - and also why this assumption holds that religious people are more moral than other people. Perhaps there are one or two small references in theology or with theologians?


An ancient font for the modern world

Friedrich Schleiermacher already recognized that the differences between the pious and the unprecise are not that great. In the text "About religion - speeches to the educated among their despisers" from 1799, he explains to the aforementioned intellectual impious readers how similar their worldview is actually to the religious one and that their rejection of religion as the basis of the rules for ordinary people misunderstand the real character of religion. Because the “feeling and the taste for the infinite” is what everyone shares. Schleiermacher explains that this “feeling of absolute dependence” on something that goes beyond man and the world is religion, not keeping rules and commandments and not even belonging to the church.

From today's point of view, one can perhaps criticize the fact that the so-called “despisers of religion” are being appropriated for Christianity without being asked. Schleiermacher's observation is still more valid today than it was 220 years ago. Our world is full of machines that we use without being able to explain them, full of algorithms we know little about, but which in turn know quite a lot about us. We are caught in a world of dependencies on conditions that we cannot create ourselves and hope that it will work out well. This is the starting point of morals and ethics: Hope you go well.
This dependence on mere hope can be oppressive because it means that we are at the mercy and insignificant. But in relation to God, this feeling of dependence leads to love for the world and people, but not necessarily to ethical behavior.

The assertion that values ​​only come from faith does not only do the unbeliever injustice, who can act just as ethically, but also faith, which is much more than just the reason for the “right” behavior. In the end, what remains of the headline of the study is the almost trivial result: A good person does not have to be pious. And a pious person is no good.


Björn Raddatz