Does Morality Need Religion?

Registration is now open closed for the conference, Does Morality Need Religion?

  • 16-17 May 2013 at the University of Oxford
  • View or print the poster to help us spread the word
  • Email us with a question


For centuries, atheism was suppressed because of its supposed amorality. Now, New Atheists such as A.C. Grayling and Sam Harris argue that decent, liberal morality is perfectly possible without religious belief—indeed, that it is only possible without it. Others, such as Jürgen Habermas, acknowledge that Christianity has had a peculiar capacity to articulate humanist values and norms, but that these can be extracted without loss from their theological roots. This May, the McDonald Centre, together with the Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology at the University of Exeter, gather ten philosophers and theologians—both believers and unbelievers—from the UK, the USA, and New Zealand to address questions such as these:

  • Even if morality in general does not need religion, might specific moralities nonetheless need it?
  • Might morality be better off without religion? Is it better off without any religion or only certain kinds?
  • When notions of human dignity or rights are extracted from theological language, is anything important lost in translation? Are such notions really sustainable apart from a theological worldview?
  • Are religious believers more, or less, moral than others? Or are such questions philosophically irrelevant?

Speakers include: David Baggett (Liberty), Julian Baggini (The Philosophers’ Magazine), Nigel Biggar (Oxford), John Cottingham (Reading), John Hare (Yale), Terence Irwin (Oxford), Michael Hauskeller (Exeter), Tim Mulgan (Auckland), Keith Ward (Oxford), Mark Wynn (Leeds).

Spring Conference Registration Open

Registration is now open for the McDonald Centre spring conference, Christianity and the Flourshing of Universities, to be held 24-25 May 2012 at Christ Church. For full details, visit the conference homepage.

This exciting event will include some of today’s top Christian scholars, such as Sarah Coakley, Jean Bethke Elshtain, David Ford, Paul Griffiths, Richard Hays, David Hempton, Mark Noll, Miroslav Volf, John Witte, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. All of these participants are Distinguished McDonald Scholars from eight of the most prominent universities in the UK and USA.

Christian Ethics & Peter Singer

This year’s spring conference, Christian Ethics Engages Peter Singer, brought together leading utilitarian and Christian speakers to discuss issues ranging from the treatment of animals to climate change and poverty. Over 100 attendees from across the globe met over two days to hear papers and participating in lively Q&A with the speakers.

The speakers included Peter Singer, John Hare, Eric Gregory, Lisa Sowle Cahill, and others. Full details can be found in the conference programme, and a complete archive is online, with full audio and video recordings of all six sessions.

Coverage of the conference can be found in various blogs, as well as the Guardian and The Tablet. During the conference, Standpoint magazine conducted an interview with Nigel Biggar and Peter Singer to be published in their next issue.

View the complete Conference Archive here.