Last night my wife and I attended a 61st anniversary celebration of a couple we've known for a long time, Russ and Delana Beaton.
When I got home, I wrote a blog post about the evening. Excerpt:
Laurel, my wife, and I have known the Beatons for a long time, over 25 years. If there's one word that describes them, its nice. If you want two words, nice and caring. Going for three, nice and caring and competent.
After a moving slide show of their married life narrated in a poetic rhyming fashion by their children, other people spoke about Russ and Delana. When a microphone was put in my hand, I said something like this:
Russ and Delana strike me as the nicest people I've ever known. I'm sitting at a table with three retired Willamette University professors. [Russ, and I think Delana also, taught there for many years.] Because I'm political and like to dig for truths under the surface, I asked them if in their experience, the Beatons really are as nice as they seem to be. Each of them said, Yes, they are. The only negative thing I heard from their Willamette colleagues was, Sometimes they can be too nice. Which doesn't seem like a flaw to me. Not at all. I only wish that one day someone would say about me, "He was too nice." For sure, this will never happen.
There were lots of stories and anecdotes about the accomplishments of Russ and Delana. They've changed so many lives for the better. To give a couple of examples -- and there are many more -- Russ was instrumental in getting Oregon's highly successful land use system off the ground, and Delana has been a tireless advocate for homeless people in Salem.
It was deeply moving to hear quite a few of the many people who attended the anniversary celebration, around 80, speak about how the Beatons had helped them, improved the community, or otherwise brought about positive change.
Nobody, absolutely nobody, naturally including Russ, Delana, and their three children, made the slightest mention of God or religion. That's because the Beatons are completely non-religious, being atheists.
Religion hasn't played any role in their adult lives, though they might have gone to church as children. I'm not sure about that.
What I am absolutely sure about is that the strong morality of the Beatons that's clearly manifested in their intense commitment to make the world a better place stems entirely from their secular beliefs. Their sense of right and wrong has no basis in religion or any form of supernaturalism.
So those who claim that religion is necessary for people to act ethically are mistaken. There are plenty of highly moral people like the Beatons who do the right thing because their atheist mind guides them in that upstanding direction.
As I put it back in 2008, morality doesn't need a middleman.