This is the first of three papers giving brief overviews for the teaching of atheism, secularism and 'Humanism'- Link below for the papers on secularism and humanism


Atheists do not believe in gods, religions built upon superstitions and irrational supernatural belief and Positive atheists critisise and oppose the malign effects of religion and other supernatural beliefs - practices,  prejudices and teachings

Non-believers  may call themselves atheists, secularists, freethinkers or secular humanists.

Atheists do not believe in belief in god for two reasons, one is the effects of organised religion on individuals and society, in the past and present and the other is that there is no evidence for the existence of god - we believe it to be untrue and harmful to individuals and society.. See Carl Sagan's 'Dragon in the Garage'.

If you can read only one booklet - This is the one :  'Why I am not a Christian' by Bertrand Russell*

Where does belief in god come from?

The origins of religion and belief in the supernatural lie in the distant past when life was short and harsh and people's lives were closely bound by the seasons and the weather. Lack of knowledge lead people to use their imaginations to invent explanations for events, good and bad, and the idea of gods directing the natural world is easy to understand.

Christmas (which was a fertility festival long before Christianity) was the midwinter celebration of the shortest day and the first day of the new year. The rise of the 'new sun' towards spring, warmth, light and growth. Ref. 'Our Pagan Christmas' by R.J.Condon After trying to stamp it out, the Christian religion took it over and now calls it a 'Christian' festival. Many religions have their 'birth of a new Son' at the time of the winter solstice.

What is Secularism? (There are believers who also support the secular state) which is?

'A state in which there is freedom of religion, freedom from religion and freedom to oppose religion, with the state taking a neutral role in relationship to 'belief' - Not giving privilege or supporting belief or non belief, and ensuring that one does not override the others'

Morality and Behaviour

Atheists do not rely on set doctrines and ancient scriptures to tell them how to behave, they have to think about their attitudes and actions and decide what is right and wrong. It is not usually difficult and if there are dilemmas they just have to be thought through and a decision taken. That is the best that anyone can do.

So how do they know what is right and wrong?

1) The guiding principle is respect for oneself, other people, animals and the environment.

2) Morality preceded religion. Humans are social animals and have to learn to live together. We are sensible enough to be able to work out what is in our own enlightened self interest - discuss.

3) They place great importance of full information in order to make informed choices on the evidence available.

4) Take any problem and discuss it in moral terms and you will find that it takes more than doctrine to justify any position relevant to a range of factors and situations - Discuss the merits of Rigidity and Flexibility with examples

e.g. The 'bible' stories such as the house built on sand, and the Good Samaritan are used to illustrate the wisdom of Jesus and the supposed origin of such wisdom as a religious invention, and are an example of how religion takes common sense and morality, and converts them to promote their particular religious beliefs.

Common Sense, like morality is something that human beings learn from experience. If you build a house on sand, you will quickly learn that it will not last long. If you live in a society in which people do not look after each other, you may well in turn suffer from neglect.

However, if you have ever lived in a house in which the previous owner built structures for posterity that have become obsolete and need to be changed you will value also an analysis of purpose, flexibility and rational thinking.

Key Topics:- Responsibility : Relationships : Drugs and Drink : Sexual relationships, reproductive rights and sexual health issues : Abortion, Contraception, Age of Consent, Sex for pleasure and for procreation : Gender issues : Women's Equality and rights : The morality of missionary activity : Teaching religious opinion as fact :

The atheist attitudes towards religion vary, but generally distinguish between individual people who 'believe' and practice religions as a private matter, and the organised religions that act politically to promote their beliefs and seek to make others comply with their beliefs through the law and practices in the community and have traditional and financial privileges that enable them to promote their views.

Opposition to religion and other superstitious beliefs on principle and on the evidence of its effects, is not selective, but applies to all organised religions. Examples of the effects of religion especially in conflict and on women, can be seen to a different extent in different religions in different parts of the world, but care must be taken to ensure that atheism is not subverted and used to promote or hide racism and sectarianism. This is why it is important that people understand principled Atheism, Secularism and Secular Humanism.

Some take a passive attitude towards religion, others oppose religion because they see the evidence from history and current events - attitudes and practices as being harmful -

Examples :-

1) The subjugation of women who they treat as inferior. The ill treatment and killing of women who offend against their unequal treatment in sexual and other matters.

2) The opposition to Condoms and the effect that has on population and health programmes and HIV/AIDS control.

3) Prejudice and discrimination against homosexuals, other religions and non-believers

4) Punitive attitudes to people they consider as of less worth.

How do they make their decisions?

Like most people these days, they use common sense, knowledge and what is in the interest of themselves, their families, their community, their country, and the rest of the world.

Is there a distinctive attitude to politics?

Most Atheists believe that superstition thrives on insecurity, poverty and ignorance. That secularism prevents sectarian conflict, and that humans have a right to participation in government, and fair political systems are necessary for peaceful and harmonious relations between peoples.

Atheism is not an ideology for which we should apologise, it is a rational point of view that should be promoted in the interests of human happiness, in peaceful and harmonious societies.

Other sources:

Leaflet on Secular Humanism

Information on Atheist opinion see AtheismUK

Teachers Notes on Secularism

Teachers Notes on Humanism

Campaign for Secular Education -

Directory Site - see (/TheMiracle.htm)

For other issues

Reading List CLICK HERE