You CAN be good with God!

OK – we have become used to the slogan “You can be good without God.” Versions of it have popped up all around the world over the last few years.

Even in little old New Zealand.

It’s really only stating the obvious – being a non-theist doesn’t make you a bad person. In principle most Christians probably agree – or say they do. However it hasn’t stopped many of them from finding such slogans offensive.* Because alongside these campaigns to put up such billboards, there have been campaigns to prevent them – or remove them.

Mind you – perhaps there is poetic justice. An Ohio church happened to own the land on which a Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) billboard was. The advertising firm was unaware of the ownership – they just rented the site. The Christ Cathedral Church in Columbus, Ohio had the billboard removed back in June.

Billboard removed by Christ Cathedral Church from their commercial land - on which they evaded taxation by declaring it a "place of worship"

Problem (for the church) is this  bought to public notice the fact they owned the land, that they were earning an income from the land – but they were not paying tax on that income. (One wonders how much this sort of tax evasion goes on in New Zealand where religion can also earn a tax-free and local body rate free charity status – just because they are religious!)

The FFRF looked into this, found the church owned several commercial properties which they evaded taxation on by declaring them as “places of worship!” (see Columbus Church must “render unto Caesar”).

I guess they were worshiping the almighty dollar!

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor commented:

“Apparently this church doesn’t heed the scriptural advice in Matthew 22:21 ‘Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,’

“Has this church, that was so offended that a grad student could be ‘good without God,’ been good with God?”

Can you be good with God?

I like that question “can you be good with God?” I guess some people might be asking that these days – there seem to be many cases of priests and religious ministers caught with the hand in the till (or in other places they shouldn’t be). So it’s natural to wonder.

However, I would like to assure Christians and other believers that there is no reason that their beliefs will necessarily stop them from being good. I say that with some confidence because over recent years there has been a lot of progress in the scientific understanding of human morality. And this overwhelmingly indicates that human morality is actually a secular activity. It’s involved with the real world, the non-”sacred” world. Just like accountancy, scientific research, plumbing, etc., it is a secular activity we can all indulge in – whatever our beliefs about a supposed “supernatural” world.

So it doesn’t matter if you believe in a god or not. These beliefs are irrelevant. You can still be an accountant, a scientific researcher, or a plumber. Just as you can sill do morality.

Because morality is a secular activity – its got nothing to do with gods or other supernatural beliefs.


*This hostility is interesting – perhaps at heart many Christians actually don’t think you can be good unless you hold the same supernatural beliefs they do. After all, their holy book says in Psalm 14.1:

The fool says in his heart,
‘There is no God.’
They are corrupt, they do
Abominable deeds,
There is none who does good.”

Perhaps they think that atheists are supposed to be immoral (after all this is the “word of their god”)

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13 responses to “You CAN be good with God!

  1. Thanks for that David. I suspect this is another case of “sophisticated theologians” saying one thing and their “flock” saying another.

  2. Scotland. Bagpipes. Porridge. The smell of the heather. Tartan tamoshanters. Sporrins! Big fat sporrins!! Fresh haggis. etc, etc, etc.

  3. David Winter’s link suggests that more Muslims than Christians think it is not possible to be “good without God” (99% in Egypt).

  4. Yes, Lorna. I would be interested in seeing data for comparisons within countries and also educational and income levels.

  5. Interesting link from David, one way of looking at those that answer that it’s not possible to be moral without belief in God is not that non-believers are immoral in aspects of their lives not pertaining to religious belief, but that the simple non-belief in God is in itself immoral, this way of looking at the issue I think would be more common amongst Muslims because that’s literally what the Koran says and Muslims, unlike Christians, rely on a more literal interpretation of their holy book.

  6. Still, I think a few Chrsitians also think that way – take that meaning from Psalm 14.1.

    it seems to me that while Chrsitianity increased the scope of “us” from ethnic, racial, grounds, it also crerated a new “them.’

    Its boundary became that between “believers” and “non-believers” Apparently this, rather than good behaviour is what gets you into heaven.

    If some do have that attitude it would explain why they will often react hostily to atheists. And how else can we explain the polls showing that atheists are the least trusted group in the US?

  7. Hi Ken,

    It’s been a while, but I’ve popped back for a visit and thought I’d mention something about your interpretation of this line from the psalms.

    The common interpretation of this psalm (14 or 53 – it appears twice with subtle variations) is that everyone is bad. Not just those who hold to an Atheistic position. I’m not sure if that came through in your reading of it.

    It helps to read it with two wider contexts in mind. One is the context of the entire psalm, specifically verses two and three. Two is the context of salvation as presented in the scriptures which is that everyone starts off as an unbeliever with respect to the Christian God.

    I’ll try to hang around a little while to give some sort of Christian input in the comments if you like?

    Sam

  8. Richard Christie

    why is it this god always seems to require a middleman or some sort interpreter to get her points across?

  9. Well, to be fair, it’s not just their particular god. All gods need Earthly representatives to help people understand what the gods are really saying.
    You see, if the gods themselves spoke to people directly in a loud, clear voice then…well…that would be bad.
    Of course, they can if they want. Only they don’t.
    There’s all kinds of really important reasons why and they would take too long to explain and besides you just need faith.
    Context. Yeah, that’s the ticket. It’s all about context.

    I’ll try to hang around a little while to give some sort of Christian input in the comments if you like?

    How can we be sure if you are a real Christian?

  10. Hi Sam,

    I have no problem understanding that biblical quote. Rather think those who need to place their own interpretation on such things are actually trying to distort the obvious meaning.

    So, thanks for the offer but it’s not required. However, I would appreciate any honest critique you can make of my articles. I thrive on debate and discussion.

    So I appreciate your offer to hang around – but please let me do my own comprehension

  11. He might be a Scotsman.

  12. Pingback: God, UFOs, Life After Death: What do New Zealanders Believe? « Scepticon

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