Good and Evil

By William Silvert ’58, ’65 PhD / September / October 2006
November 13th, 2006

The BAM is usually interesting and sometimes surprising, but I got a real shock when I read the last sentence of the Mail Room letter from Gerry Murphy ’69 in the March/April issue (“God and Darwin”). Murphy refers to “atheistic humanism, the fruits of which are the Holocaust, the gulags, and a culture of death.” Living in a world under the shadow of terrorism motivated by religious fanaticism, I find it hard to accept that the fruits of religion are any better.

As I read through the issue my mind wandered to the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the troubles in Ireland, as well as to many other bloody conflicts fueled by religion. I was contemplating the role of missionaries in colonial oppression when I finally came to the inspiring article by Scott Russell Sanders ’67 in the same issue (“The End of Innocence”). I think that he portrays well both the sterility of much religious practice and the potential of religion to inspire. Although I am a confirmed atheist, I have the greatest respect for the values he expresses.

I doubt religious humanists are very different from atheistic humanists (once excoriated as “secular humanists”). The Holocaust and the gulags may have been devised by atheists, but how anyone can refer to Hitler and Stalin as humanists totally baffles me. I think that good and evil exist quite independently of religious affiliation. Murphy’s conclusion that we need to include God in the creation process in order to protect the world from a culture of death is one of the most outrageous flights of fancy ever to disgrace your pages.

William Silvert ’58, ’65 PhD

 Peral, Portugal 

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September / October 2006