Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Good Without God?

Ft. Worth Bus
You may have heard or read the media hype about the ad campaign on some of Fort Worth, TX, buses placed there by the Coalition of Reason. The banner on the side of the bus reads:

Millions of Americans are Good without god.

Some Christians are outraged and plan to boycott the buses. Others have mounted their own campaign that follows the atheist-sponsored messages in an ad-bearing truck that reads, "I still love you." [signed] God.

The ads actually are true! Millions ARE "good" without believing in a deity. According to acceptable norms of behavior in our society, people can be called "good" without believing in a god.

The problem is not their belief or disbelief in a god. I am not a philosopher or ethicist, but my question would be "Where do you get your definition of good?" In our culture, that source is the Judeo-Christian tradition. We define "good" from the historical truths of Scripture, and our entire system of morality is founded upon that.

I agree, you can be "good without god," but, I would argue, you wouldn't know you were "good" if God had not revealed what good is for us and we had not adopted that definition as the way we define the category. (I know philosophical ethics has other ways of getting there, but that's  not my arena of engagement.)

This is not a new issue for Christians. Paul acknowledged there is a futile way of thinking that leads to a denial of God (Romans 1:21), and Peter wrote a second letter to ensure Christians were thinking clearly. (2 Peter 3:1-3)
I wouldn't get too riled up about the ads. I would invite you to engage a friend in the conversation about how do they come up with what is "good" in his or her life, and to share the source of your values.

[A Late Addition]

I have been reminded that the first argument C S Lewis espoused for the possibility of God was his first chapter title, "Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe," in Mere Christianity.

Lewis concluded,

"First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live it." (1952, 21)

I wonder if the Coalition of Reason has thought through that?

We have begun our Advent Conspiracy at Legacy Church. Check it out and join us in the revolution.


Daniel Fermaint said...

I'm not sure I can articulate "good" like you can Gene, but I know for myself, "good" has been a result of God's blessings and care in my walk with Him. When I think of how millions can be good without God, I often think of how millions are ignoring God's blessing in their lives. I sense God's blessings are unknown to us until after the fact. For many, they are "good", but they do not know they are "good" until after the fact; hence God's blessings and care for them. We don't often see the storms until we're amid a battle and then whom does one seek? I sense those "good without God" are basking in God's blessing and care.

Dave said...

nice...for just opening up the discussion....there are miles to go before you get to the final destination....for by our sinful nature...we are evil...

pturner63 said...

Gene - very well asked my friend. I continue to discover that the longer I live, the more I need of His grace because the "good" in me is just not good.

Troy said...

Thanks for the invite to engage in the discussion Gene. I am always up for a good conversation.

This inference of 'good' proclaimed by the adherents automatically dictates an objective position regarding ethical (or moral) judgments.

There are actually two philosophical positions that make the 'good without god' position easy to impugn with perfect impunity.

1) First is Hume's argument from the absence of moral reason. Hume asserts that no one can purely reason their way to a moral position. For Hume, every moral position is a result of some affect. In other words, if I state that abortion is wrong I have not arrived at this inference by reason; but by some affect that abortion has on me existentially. (I.e. I know someone who had an abortion, I witnessed an abortion video, etc.) The problem for Hume, who was an agnostic, is that this position cuts both ways. If I state I am good without god, this is moral positioning based on an affect (I.e. I've had something bad happen to me at a church, I am jealous of people who hold a faith position, I believe religion is the root of all evil, etc.) Either way, with this position the 'sign posters' are not being honest, at least not fully honest about their position.

2) Would be very closely associated with your position that you've written in your blog, Gene. From a naturalistic perspective (biologically, evolutionarily, etc.) there is no 'good' or 'evil'- just genes, cells, neurons, etc. Since there is no metaphysical good or evil—just blind, pitiless indifference. How can they make such a metaphysical jump to deny God? They can only criticize God by appropriating the moral resources available within theism (goodness, compassion, etc.) rather than naturalism (no moral inference is available).

Hope this helps some readers find a deepening of their faith in Jesus- knowing that our theistic position is not just a 'fatuous faith' or 'typhlotic trust', but one grounded in solid reason and evidence...if we just think a little!!

faithrunner said...

Thanks for the posts, friends. I know why our faith continues to hold. First, it is based on truth; and, second, we have not been the only ones wrestling with it over the centuries. It's not here by happenstance or someone's wild idea for world peace. Honored to share our trust in Christ with you.