29 October 2009

Truly Good without God

I understand the recent billboard campaign promoting the idea that people can be “good without God” doesn't target fundamentalists, but I want to mention why I think it won't really have any effect on them whatsoever. No amount of personal virtue or charitable activity could ever convince most of them that you can live an ethical life without their religion. Beyond the issue of belief, which the campaign attempts to address directly, conservative believers have a very specific idea of what it means to be a good person. This includes refraining for all sorts of normal sexual activity, regularly attending and financially supporting a church in the community, and subscribing to and voting according to a conservative political ideology, at least on certain social issues. For some of them, it also means never drinking, smoking or dancing. Unless you act just like them in these matters, you'll never be good in their eyes. At most, you'll be slightly more tolerable.

The problem is that we can't honestly say that we act like strong believers even though we don't believe. We instead have to convince them the way we act isn't immoral because their objections to our lives have nothing to do with actual morality. That's a difficult task but a worthy one.

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4 comments:

mikespeir said...

I still don't drink, smoke, or dance. But I'm still not good in their sight. The reason is that to them goodness isn't evinced by how one acts; it's determined by whether one has trusted Christ. (They'll says it's a result of trusting in Christ.) We don't do that, so it doesn't matter how we act, we're evil.

BowserTheCat said...

I think you hit it on the head. The issue is the definition of 'good'. Doing no harm and helping others whenever possible (even if personally inconvenient) is at least part of my definition and probably most fundamentalists as well.

But if the definition includes, as mikespeir said, trusting in a deity of some sort then I'm not.

By the same token things like denying a class of individuals such as gays rights is 'bad' by my values.

I'm not at all sure it's possible to bridge that chasm...

Leah said...

I've thought of that too. My behavior hasn't changed drastically from when I was religious. I don't beat my children or steal and I do what I can to help out others, but in some people's eyes, I'll never be good enough because I don't have Jesus in my heart and I don't go to church or pray. And I support gay rights and oppose torture and don't think abortion is always wrong. That's what happens when you start thinking for yourself.

solomon said...

Leah,
Sometimes good is not good enough.We must look good in the eyes of god.That is the ultimate measure of "good"