Engaging with christianity

Peter Singer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


An autobiographical introduction Since this chapter originated at a conference about Christian ethics engaging with Peter Singer, I thought it might be appropriate to begin by telling you about Peter Singer’s engagement with Christianity. I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, in a home with a Jewish cultural background but no Jewish religious belief. I can’t recall a time when I believed in God. I suppose there were times when I was an agnostic, rather than an atheist, because sometimes during my childhood or early teenage years it seemed to me an interesting speculation that there might be some kind of personal force behind the existence of the universe, but for the overwhelming majority of my life, that possibility has seemed to me sufficiently implausible for me to accept the label ‘atheist’. I have one positive and two negative reasons for my atheism. The positive reason is the one reputed to have been uttered by Laplace, when Napoleon asked him where God figured in his account of the cosmos: ‘I had no need of that hypothesis.’ In other words, the world seems sufficiently explicable without positing a God, or at least no more explicable if we do posit one, so why add one? The first negative reason is that, although I live in a society in which most religious believers are Christians, it is obvious that they did not come to that belief independently of being brought up in Christian families. I don’t know anyone who grew up in a Jewish family who became a Christian (with the exception of some relatives who grew up in Austria before the war and took on a Christian identity in an attempt to escape anti-Semitism) and I know only one or two people who grew up in Christian families and converted to Judaism, and they did so when they fell in love with a person who was Jewish. On the other hand, I know many people who grew up in both Jewish and Christian families who are no longer religious believers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGod, the Good, and Utilitarianism
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives on Peter Singer
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781107279629
ISBN (Print)9781107050754
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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