- 14For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another; Rom. 2:14,15 KJV
The Bible does not tell us that those who are without Christ do not have a sense of morality. On the contrary, it clearly states that the law is written in our hearts and that we can do "by nature" those things contained in the law. Both Christians and atheists have the same law written in their heart and may seek to follow this law of affection or empathy.
This is the basis of Roots of Empathy. The program makes no comment about religion one way or another, and I am not aware of it having any religious foundation; although many religious institutions have since recognized it as valuable.
The program is delivered through the public school system as well as private or separate schools, and has its origin in the Toronto District School Board.It is now found in most schools districts across Canada.
I heard the founder, Mary Gordon, speak when she came to Vancouver and introduced the program to our school district. Our school runs a Roots of Empathy program every year, and we have a mother and baby come in from our school community. Sometimes it is a teacher on maternity leave, or a parent, or a friend or relative of someone in the school.
The best way to access this program is to ask your school to research it and talk to other schools that have the program. It was introduced into the US in 2007 in Seattle. There is also a Seeds of Empathy program designed for other early childhood settings.
I have typically found that the atheists I know have as strong a sense of morality as the Christians I know. There are some differences in the sexual code, but otherwise it is similar. There is a growing understanding that empathy forms the basis of a moral code, and that this is written in our hearts by nature, as Paul wrote in Romans.
Christianity, therefore, is not about creating a moral code, but is a response to the fact that humans do not fulfill the moral code even though we know it by nature. Secular society has, to a certain extent, rejected religious teaching as a way to get people to fulfill the moral code and is seeking other avenues. Roots of Empathy is one of these avenues.
Roots of Empathy is found in secular and religious school districts, and I have not known it to make any reference, positive or negative, to any religion. I highly recommend it. Our school is well known for its empathy. Yes, we have several Christian teachers in our school, but some are professing atheists, and they are also leaders in showing commitment and empathy.