Letter: Good without God: The Freethinkers’ response to Pastor Wartick

Kent State Freethinkers

In his recent letter to the editor, Kent Wartick, a pastor of the Faith Lutheran Church in Kent, let us know what he thought of our recent advertising campaign. His letter was inspired by a PARTA bus sign that dared viewers to “Imagine No Religion.”

The sign was one in a series of advertisements designed and funded by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in conjunction with the Kent State Freethinkers. They were part of a nationwide ad campaign aimed at raising awareness while encouraging the critical analysis of religion’s influence on society. This inquiry has made many churchgoers uncomfortable, partially because of their twisted understanding of what it means to be nonreligious.

You see, in Pastor Wartick’s florid imagination, a world without religion is also a world with science. However, his contention that Christians’ scientific contributions were based on their religious faith is fundamentally flawed. Science is a human endeavor that spans all races, sexes and creeds. By his logic, we should also praise the Pantheon of Greek gods for ancient Greece’s contributions to mathematics. His reference to Copernicus and Galileo’s ideas on heliocentrism were especially misguided, since these early scientists were sanctioned heavily for daring to defy scripturally established church dogma that placed the earth in the center of the universe.

Wartick goes on to imagine that an irreligious world would be full of suffering and strife. After all, why would anyone be good if not for the promise of heaven and the threat of hell? It is clear, however, that scripture is not an adequate source of moral guidance. According to the Bible, God himself commits genocide and explicitly endorses slavery. Most religious people tend to emphasize the parts of the Bible that they find redeeming while ignoring the abhorrent. The fact that we are able to make these moral judgments proves that we don’t derive our moral intuitions from holy books.

So where do we get our understanding of morality, if not from religion? The humanist approach to morality rejects the need for supernatural guidance while affirming our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives based on universal concepts like empathy, justice, honesty and love. The Humanist Manifesto III, available from the American Humanist Association, states that “the lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully.”

Far too much of our national dialogue on morality is centered on issues that have little to do with human happiness and flourishing. Religious leaders have hijacked our discourse with inflamed rhetoric over gay marriage and the fate of unconscious blastocysts, while distracting from the important issues of social justice and global climate change. Solutions to these real-world problems will be found through the hard work of people, not through divine revelation or the unquestioned adherence to Bronze-age traditions. The moral primacy of religious ideas will need to be challenged if we’re going to find real world solutions to these difficult problems.

Wartick ends his letter by listing a few “responses” to his perceived threat of the “New Atheism.” We add that you should also consider reading “The Humanist Approach to Happiness” by Jennifer Hancock, and “Good Without God” by Greg Epstein. We believe that the goal of higher education should include the ability to objectively analyze arguments in order come to your own rational conclusions about the nature of the universe – not reading only what your religious leaders want you to read.

This letter represents the consensus opinion of the Executive Board of the Kent State Freethinkers. Contact them at [email protected].