Along with the vast majority of the world, the Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) utterly condemns the recent terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris, and Mali.
That said, we are concerned that in recent media statements and again in Parliament on Monday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has chosen to express those worthy sentiments in terms like these:
“…blasphemy against Islam by godless terrorists“
“Addressing parliament after a 10 day international tour, Turnbull described the attackers as “godless ISIL murderers” who “we will not let win”.”
Dear Mr Turnbull: godlessness (including atheism) has nothing whatsoever to do with what happened in Paris, Beirut and Mali, or anything else that Daesh terrorists do or say.
They are patently not godless – they clearly profess belief in a god, and that they are acting in its name. That their actions are terrorist atrocities and crimes in no way changes those beliefs. That you think that their actions don’t accord with so-called “true” principles of a religion doesn’t make them “godless”.
AFA President Michael Boyd commented:
“The Prime Minister’s language buys into the discredited stereotype that you can’t be good without God, which is unfortunate and unhelpful. Millions of atheists and non-religious in Australia and worldwide live fully ethical lives without recourse to religious morals or belief in gods. The example of avowedly secular Médecins Sans Frontières, still operating in the war zone despite being bombed twice, demonstrates that emphatically.“
That’s not to blame Muslim Australians and their personal religious practice in any way for the criminal actions of a group of terrorists. We know that they share our horror and unequivocal condemnation of these and all similar atrocities, and that they don’t support Daesh. We do not want our words to be misinterpreted as any sort of support for bigoted, xenophobic views like those of Reclaim Australia and United Patriots Front.
But as the national representative body for atheists, and for the nearly 1/3 of Australians who ticked “No religion” or did not report a religion in the 2011 Census – we think that we (and they) deserve far better from their Prime Minister than to be denigrated by association by ascribing “godlessness” to the terrorists.
Whatever else is motivating them, it’s certainly not godlessness.
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
PO Box 1062
Lane Cove NSW 1595
Phone: (02) 8007 4503