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).

Public Events: Peter Singer in Oxford

For those who were unable to secure a place at our Peter Singer conference, there remain two other opportunities to interact with him during his visit to Oxford.

Global Poverty: How Much Can You Achieve?
Sponsored by Giving What We Can
Friday, 20 May · 15:00 – 16:30
Examination Schools

When Morality Demands More than Humans are Likely to Do
Wednesday, 18 May · 17:00 – 18:30
Corpus Christi College, MBI Al Jaber Building

Debate: Was Iraq an Unjust War?

bookshotOn Tuesday, 22 March, Nigel Biggar will debate Dr David Fisher on the question, Was Iraq an Unjust War? at Chatham House, London. Professor Sir Michael Howard will introduce the debate. The event is presented by Chatham House, the nation’s premier institute for international affairs, as well as Oxford University Press and the Council on Christian Approaches to Defense. A drinks reception will follow.

The event will also mark the launch of Dr Fisher’s book, Morality and War: Can War Be Just in the Twenty-First Century?, copies of which will be available at a discount.

For full details or to RSVP, visit the event page at Chatham House. To attend, please RSVP by 21 February.