Morality cannot be solely determined by secularism

I often hear American atheists debate that that secularism alone can determine ideal morality and that religion is unnecessary to develop moral values. I find this thinking to be false based on my personal observations of “moral values” in the secular and religious communities dating back to my teen years.

Britney Spears Baby One More Time
A shot from Britney Spears’ 1999 music video “…Baby One More Time”.

I’m sure many of us recall mega-pop star Britney Spears releasing the hit song “…Baby One More Time” in 1999. I was 11 years old at the time and recall Spears being a popular topic for students at my public middle school in Southern California. The song’s music video received particular attention considering sweet 16-year-old scantily clad Spears danced around in a “half-there” school uniform and heavy makeup (a dream for pedophiles). Most children my age had never seen anything like this before.

Spears was one of the first major female celebrities to be a recognized female role model to the millennial generation. Most major pop stars after Spears pushed sexuality and the “bad girl” image beyond what Spears accomplished, often trying to “outdo” each other in order to receive media attention. I lost interest in the secular mainstream music industry long ago because I considered it to be stunting the advancement and maturity of American children, and also downplaying women.

I take note Spears was, and still is, a part of the “secular” culture. “Secular,” that’s what atheists often talk about when it comes to ideal morality, right?

Not too long after Spears was introduced to the world, I was invited by a couple classmates to attend youth group at a local church. I decided to become more involved in the church and attended services on a weekly basis.

I gradually started catching on to Christian music, primarily categories such as Christian ska, punk, and hardcore. I found bands in these categories to be unique compared to secular music, not only in that they praised the Lord, but that they discussed life on a deeper level than mainstream secular artists like Britney Spears and even secular bands in the same music categories. The Christian bands were often enthusiastic, hopeful, positive and “down to earth” compared to the brain dead music industry stars on MTV.

Edie Christian band Headnoise
Edie, front woman of Christian punk band Headnoise from Orange County, CA.

On a side note, I also acknowledge the role of women in Christian alt-rock bands. They are strong female figures, often leading the band or playing instruments alongside male band mates. Women in Christian alt-rock bands are often presented as equal to their male counter-parts and are greatly respected.

To this day, despite being atheist for over 12 years, I still admire many of the Christian bands I listened to during my teen years, primarily for their level of morality and thought provoking lyrics. They actually make me glad I decided to attend church during my teenage years!

Jesus Christ Hardcore JCHC
Logos associated with the Christian punk scene. JCHC stands for “Jesus Christ Hardcore”.

I also recall while I was a part of the Christian punk scene (yes, it is exists) that there was emphasis on friendship, family, and bypassing drugs and alcohol. The people in this scene wanted to make something of themselves and be inspired. Meanwhile many of my acquaintances who were in the secular punk scene often lacked enthusiasm, motivation and did not do well in school. I recall attending one secular punk show where the band sang shallow lyrics, swore incredibly and spit on the audience. I wanted to be back at a more sophisticated and inspiring Christian punk show.

So I question, can secularism determine morality to the point that religion can be ignored completely? I do not think so. I think morality is developed by both the secular and religious communities. Occasionally I think the religious community contributes even more to morality, and therefore the contribution of religion to morality should be acknowledged.

Obviously religion has failed at living up to ideal moral standards many times, and continues to do so to this day. But I like to approach religion as Christians tend to approach the bible – point out the good parts, challenge the bad parts.

I do not consider this to have anything to do with the “existence” of a higher spirit, but more so the development of a set of views over time. Religion has existed for thousands of years and therefore has a set of views that have been shaped as economies, technology and living standards have changed.

I would be rather supportive of my child’s decision to attend church, oddly enough. I would also play a few tracks from the Christian band Five Iron Frenzy while the child is young for the sake of morality, humor and more positive thinking.

Why do I make a point to be sympathetic towards religion? I think the atheist community will progress when it acknowledges positive contributions religion has made to western society, and that secularism is not the sole determinant of morality. Thank you for your time.

A few songs from Christian bands I listen to from time to time. To this day I consider this music to be far more impressive than what has come out of the secular mainstream industry. Many comments to these videos on Youtube state that they have such great memories listening to this music and that it helped them get through challenging times. This is only the tip of the iceberg of alt-rock Christian bands!

Five Iron Frenzy – “Farsighted” (2001). Christian ska band from Denver, Colorado.

Headnoise – “Fight for What is Right” (2000). Christian punk band from Orange County, California.

Ballydowse – “Open the Records” (2000). Christian celtic punk rock band from Chicago.

Blaster the Rocket Man – “Baby Unvamp” (1999). Christian horror punk band from Indianapolis, Indiana. One of the most unique Christian bands I have ever come across.

Lauren EllLauren Ell is President of Republican Atheists. She is a business owner, consultant, marketer and communications strategist. Contact Lauren Ell here. Follow Republican Atheists on Facebook and Twitter.


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3 Replies to “Morality cannot be solely determined by secularism”

  1. Andrew Verdecchio

    Hey, this is Andy from FIF. Great article, I really enjoyed it. Oddly enough, I am now an atheist. Have been for about 15 years now. When I joined Five Iron Frenzy I was obviously a Christian but as I began to critically examine what I had so fervently believed the more unconvinced I was of my belief. I think it’s cool that you still listen to “Christian” music (although I find that religious labels don’t belong on art) however, I would say that by discounting “secular” punk and ska as being negative is misplaced. Consider bands like Fugazi, MU330, Mike Park, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Youth Brigade, etc… The aforementioned bands were all highly influential to Five Iron Frenzy in one form or another. Anyway, great article. I enjoyed reading it even though I’m not a republican 😉

  2. Katherine Flowers

    I believe you are using a straw man argument. Britney Spears is just there to sell records not be a moral compass. It is those who are willing to take a knee during a game to protest injustice that create dialogue about what is right and what are the things that we still need to work on. Without religion we would still have a constitution a more moral document that did something the bible never did, abolished slavery.

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