Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Katherine Birbalsingh Wonders if We Can Have Morality Without God

Katherine Birbalsingh is an educator who is opening a school for underprivileged youth in London. Her blog post today is an astonishingly open and honest reflection on the connection between the recent riots in London, morality and God. Although she is not a believer, she appears to be wrestling with the biggest and most important questions of life such as "Can we have morality without God?"

She writes in her post, "UK riots: Tariq Jahan's inspiring faith makes me wonder if atheists have got it wrong":

I’m sitting in the Green Room waiting for some media thing and I meet these two young black men. They are reformed gang members and yet they can’t be more than 20 years old. One of them has a child and is doing his best now to be a proper father. I’m impressed. I ask him what has changed his life and he points to his mentor on the other side of the room and speaks highly of the organisation that has supported him through the transformation. He then explains that he has changed his life because he has “found God”.

I wince at the idea of “finding” God as if God were a lost dog, and smile, thinking as I always do, well, if it works for him, then great. If God can make you fix your life up, then I’m all for Him!

The following day, I hear Tariq Jahan, the father in Birmingham whose son was killed, speak eloquently about honour, forgiveness and destiny. He explains that his religion gives him the strength to see through the death of his dearly loved boy and accept that this was his son’s fate. I look on in admiration because I exist without that sense of certainty, and I find his certainty mesmerising.

Next, I’m being interviewed by a Russian journalist who is fascinated by these riots. I explain that I believe our culture of moral relativism is to blame, that no one believes in right and wrong anymore, that everything is subjective, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, that we don’t believe in an objective morality. She frowns.

“So you believe in God, then?”

I shake my head. “No. But I do believe in an objective morality.”

She nods. “Ah. So you believe in the state then?”

I try to explain that I don’t believe in either the state or God, but back and forth we go for what seems to be forever, locked in this gripping cultural clash. When I talk of my objective morality, she continually cries out, “But where does it come from?” I have no answer of course. “I just know what’s right and wrong,” I say. “Someone taught me when I was young. You don’t need God to have morality.”

Quite literally, she is unable to understand what I’m saying and as we go on, I’m beginning to wonder whether I understand it myself. As I walk away from the journalist, I begin to think. Is belief in God part of the solution? Are we having all of these problems these days because no one believes in God? Perhaps we think we can live without Him, but that simply isn’t the case.

I heard her interviewed on the radio the other day and her common sense and conservative wisdom about educating inner city young people shone through. Let us pray that she too will find the God of creation, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you Katherine, even before you believe in Him.

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