Belief in God is thought by many to be the only possible source of morality, such that without a God, “everything is permitted.” Yet godlessness is on the rise in the West, with figures like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Lawrence Krauss leading the “New Atheism” movement. But if atheism is defined by its lack of belief, where do these non-believers find guiding principles? Are there any positive beliefs or values that atheists have in common? If so, are they based on a rational, scientific framework, or must non-believers, like believers, ultimately rely on faith?

Religion has been the social backbone of human civilization for thousands of years.  It helps explain the unexplainable, gives hope to the hopeless, and its places of worship have been the common spaces whose members get to know each other, practice common traditions, build trust, and help each other in an enormous and frightening world.  But what happens when the world gets smaller, and people of different faiths, or no faith at all, live together - and in a democracy none the less? Next week we'll discuss the influence faith-based organizations have on secular society.