Does religion have a monopoly on morality?


South Africa’s murder rate is currently placed 10th in the world. That is certainly an improvement, of sorts. We still proudly boast to have the worst rape statistics in the world, violence against children is one of our gravest social ills, and if you add other crime figures, few would doubt South Africa’s status as the most dangerous country outside of current war zones.

Deputy president of the ANC, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa.Image by: Esa Alexander

Deputy president of the ANC, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image by: Esa Alexander

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa has called on Christians to be South Africa’s moral conscience when it came to crimes such as rape. “There is no better agent than Christians and the church to raise the morals, the moral consciousness of our nation,” Ramaphosa was quoted by the City Press newspaper as saying at the Pentecostal Holiness Church.

“It falls on us as Christians. We must say this is a sin. This is a crime. Rape is a sin and it is a crime. We are the ones, as Christians, who must stand up and say: ‘Corruption, we will never accept it, because it is a sin. It is a crime’. We also need to be the moral conscience of our country when it comes to respect for woman and acting against rapists,” he said.

We cannot really fault him for this. He is a Christian, and he is calling on his fellow Christians to be good Christians. Even the snidest of cynics will find it hard to denounce someone for calling on people to help guide our communities out of these immoral doldrums. But what does it mean in the larger context, when political leaders single out certain religions?

Does it mean that other religions are inferior and can’t guide morality? What about people who have no religion? Do they not have a role to play?

There is no evidence that Christians are more moral than non-Christians. 60% of South Africans identify with being Christian. If you  take the high level of social ills into account, you’d have to accept that many Christians are, in fact, part of the problem.

That is not to say that Christianity can’t play a part in stemming the tide, but speaking as a public person, shouldn’t Mr. Ramaphosa call on all people of good conscience to be a moral guide to others?

Religious leaders of all faiths should spend more time encouraging good behaviour, and actually teach their followers what such good behaviour is, and less time telling their followers how much their god loves them and how wonderful the afterlife is. Good people who believe in God should spend more time helping others become better people, and less time winning souls for Jesus. Simply getting someone to give himself to Jesus is not enough.

Being a moral compass is not only the responsibility of the faithful. We too can teach and encourage. We too can be an example to others, “a shining light in the world,” even if we don’t do it through religion.  Maybe we can spend less time arguing against God, and more time spreading valuable, humanist principles.

Let’s be good without God, and help others be good, with or without God.

Cor Rautenbach
Atheist Movement of South Africa

Cor Rautenbach

Cor Rautenbach grew up in the Kalahari Desert – with no atheist influence, no internet and no literature – just a reasonable sense of logic applied while keenly observing the religious. He has seen the often ignored dark side – well-meaning, good, wholesome people causing harm to others driven by ignorance and an unquestioned devotion to faith. He hasn’t been to a church sermon since the age of 14. No, he does not worship Satan.

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3 thoughts on “Does religion have a monopoly on morality?

  1. Nearly all religions pretend to have a monopoly on morality; it is a definition of religion but it religion is no definition of morality. Better to sit down (alone) and define one’s ethics, stick to it, and let everyone know what forms one’s ethical kraal that it no be violated. As youth today proclaims, religion is merely a suppository of evil which more often works to constipate.

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