Dear Mr Turnbull: Godlessness is NOT the problem

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.



Michael Boyd

President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
PO Box 1062
Lane Cove NSW 1595

Phone: (02) 8007 4503
Email: president@atheistfoundation.org.au


  • sam

    Excellent. However I would remove the word “but” from the beginning of the last paragraph. I needs not be there.

  • Jim Best

    It should be impossible to argue with that logic but they’ll trot out “you haven’t found god” or some such trite nonsense.

  • Thank you!

  • Mike Hales

    If you want to tell the PM what you think, contact via:

    https://www.pm.gov.au/contact-your-pm

  • terry richard klumpp

    With respect – when the PM said ‘godlessness’ I don’t think he had ‘atheists’ in mind at the time. Are we (atheists) not being a bit ‘precious’ here? I doubt the PM had any intention to denigrate (fellow) atheists. Cheers!

    • Vance Erden

      Is Malcolm Turnbull so stupid that he’s yet to realise atheists are godless? He was clearly using ‘godless’ in a pejorative sense, and associating it with immoral behaviour (in this case, indiscriminate murder). I think he owes your fellow atheists a public apology.

      • terry richard klumpp

        In the fullness of time I dare say he’ll deliver a most unctuous apology as is typical of most politicians. Cheers!

        • Vance Erden

          Perhaps he could also explain why he kept using ‘godless’ as a synonym for ‘immoral’?

  • terry richard klumpp

    From the Office of the Prime Mister of Australia . . . I apologize to you for my egregious (but unintended) insult – by my “thoughtless” use of the term “godless.” I am genuinely sorry for any offence taken. Some of my best friends are atheists and you were – are, quite right to be annoyed with me. I’ve fully taken on board all the valid points in you letter. (Yes. I’ll choose my words more carefully in future). Now let us reconcile and be at peace with one another. I’ve arranged ‘free-counselling-sessions’ for the atheists who can show they were truly ‘traumatized’ by my thoughtless use of the word (dare I repeat it? yes) ‘godless’. Sorry. (For further assistance contact (DFAP) Department for Aggrieved Persons). Your sincerely, Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia. November 2015. – Written by Terry Richard Klumpp and – yes, of course – I’m jest-hoaxing here. No animus intended. Cheers!

  • RDF

    My sentiments exactly. I hope you really did send it to the PM.

    Perhaps it would be worthwhile sending it to the print and social-media services too?

  • Michael Collins

    Seeing a child molesting warlord, thief who had any critics killed and offered captured women and children as booty to his soldiers as any sort of role model says a lot about you as a person. Pew polls also indicate that a large percentage of muslims hold views that are simply barbaric such as supporting the death penalty for apostates, gay people and blasphemers.