Can You Be good Without God? 

Can You Be Good Without God?

Can you be good without God? Of the various questions raised in the theist/atheist debate, this question has, I believe, occasioned more witless commentary than any other. That witlessness is again on display in an essay for the Daily Beast, “Can you be good without God?” by Brandon Withrow of the University of Findlay. Withrow interviews a bunch of ticked-off atheists, who get the answer wrong.

He discusses a study titled, “Global evidence of extreme intuitive moral prejudice against atheists”:

“If God did not exist, then we would have to invent him,” said the French philosopher Voltaire. His point: that without a divine being to check right and wrong, any number of atrocities are possible and could go unpunished.

A recent study (of more than 3,000 people in 13 countries) published in the journal Nature Human Behavior echoes Voltaire’s maxim. Looking at intuitive thinking — presumptions drawn by individuals through unconscious biases — researchers led by Will M. Gervais, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, discovered that most individuals intuitively conclude that a serial killer is more likely to be an atheist (approximately 60 percent) than religious (approximately 30 percent).

From the study’s Abstract:

Preliminary work in the United States suggests that anti-atheist prejudice stems, in part, from deeply rooted intuitions about religion’s putatively necessary role in morality. However, the cross-cultural prevalence and magnitude — as well as intracultural demographic stability — of such intuitions, as manifested in intuitive associations of immorality with atheists, remain unclear. Here, we quantify moral distrust of atheists by applying well-tested measures in a large global sample (N = 3,256; 13 diverse countries). Consistent with cultural evolutionary theories of religion and morality, people in most — but not all — of these countries viewed extreme moral violations as representative of atheists. Notably, anti-atheist prejudice was even evident among atheist participants around the world. [Emphasis added.]

The issue is simple, though. The answer to the question we started with hinges on what you mean by “without God.” Let’s take a look.

  1. If God does not exist, you cannot be good. You cannot be evil. You can’t conform or fail to conform to anytranscendental standard, because if there is no God, there are no transcendental standards. There is no Moral Law if there is no Moral Lawgiver. If there is no God, there are merely opinions and consequences of acting on opinions. We may label certain opinions “good,” but that’s just our opinion. What we really mean by calling something “good” is that we like it. Which is fine, as long as we understand that “good without God” is just a metaphor for “something I (or we) like.” If there is no God, all of our “moral” decisions are just opinions — perhaps opinions we like, or opinions we don’t like — but neither good nor bad.
  2. If God does exist, but you don’t believe in Him, then of course you can be “good without God”, in the sense that you can be good without believingin God. It is central to the moral theology of all the great faiths that non-believers may act in accordance with Moral Law without belief in God and even without knowing Moral Law in any formal sense. The Moral Law is written in our hearts, theists universally agree, and we feel the weight of morality whether we believe in God or not.

Now of course an additional question can be asked: Do theists actually behave better than atheists? I think this is the question that ticked off the atheists in the essay. If theists do, on the average, behave better than atheists, there are certainly many exceptions on both sides, and arguments can be made that particular groups of theists/atheists behave better/worse than other groups of atheists/theists. Mankind is a confusing mess.

Atheists, however, are on quicksand when they argue about “goodness” and “evil,” given that their metaphysics, if taken seriously, utterly rules out the existence of either. Also, it would seem to me that atheists could be a bit more contrite in light of the fact that whenever they have assumed state power — from the Reign of Terror to the gang currently launching missiles from North Korea — atheism has brought hell to earth.

The godless would garner more respect if they took their own metaphysics seriously, and if they showed at bit of contrition for what real atheists have done when in power. Author unknown.

The Hero With A Thousand Faces-Jesus

Jesus the perfect Hero

The Old Testimony is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. The Apostle Paul, Hebrews 10:1

Joseph Campbell in his book “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” discovered that there were a number of central themes and motifs in many of the myths of heroes throughout the world.  This raises the question does this phenomenon point to something or someone beyond itself or is it just an accident?  Campbell infers that the very purpose of myths is to point beyond themselves to something deeply profound and yet hidden.  If this is true what about the phenomenon of myth and the fact that all share the same motif?

In ancient times, there were gods, heroes, demigods and humans.  The demigods were divided up into demons and angels.  The gods and heroes beckoned men to a higher standard and to living a virtuous and courageous life.  The negative demigods or demons tried to hold humanity down to the earth and to live on a mere animal level.  The good demigods were the angels or messengers that were mediators for the gods.  The heroes mission was to overcome and save his people from the dragon or the serpent which symbolically represented the chief evil in the world.  Often we see the hero save his people by leading them to a promise land where they would be prosperous and safe from the forces of evil.  To accomplish this the hero would have to suffer many things and sometimes even sacrifice himself.  However, there was never an end to the story of the hero for there was always rebirth and resurrection.

We live in a world without real heroes.  Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman make great heroes for children but they lack the authenticity to inspire adults unto living a virtuous life.  However, human beings need actual heroes that can save us from the dragons in our  lives and inspire us to move up to higher ground and to live courageously in the face of the dragon (death) which is devouring us.  For an adult, an actual hero must be grounded in reality, i.e. there must be a factual element in their story.  The hero must be truly virtuous, courageous himself and experience the sufferings and victories of a life well lived. They must have the power to do what they promised, and their powers must come from the gods.  If they have no super powers they cannot be heroes.  They would simply be mere men.  At the very least, they must have a special relationship with the gods that set them apart from other men.  They are the chosen ones.

How do we explain the similarities of all of the myths, and the central themes of their story.  I believe that in the myths, we see how God communicates to men through stories.  Myths are one of the languages of God.  The myths basically are shadows of good things to come or in some cases the bad that is to come.  In other words, they are living metaphors of the truth.  They are like the truth, but in themselves are not the truth, but rather they are vessels that bring to those who have eyes that see, the truth[1].  The New Testament writers looked upon the Old Testament as a shadow of good things that were to come but not the reality (Heb 10:1).  The Old Testament stories were shadows pointing to the mighty hero who was to come.  The whole theme of the Old Testament is that someone is coming and as we move into the gospels it changes to someone has come, and when we get to last book of the New Testament, it changes once more to someone is coming again.  The theme of the entire Bible is, someone is coming and that someone is going to be the mighty hero who will embody all heroes of history.

What am I saying?  In Jesus the myth becomes real as the apostle John says, “The Word[2] became flesh and dwelled (literally, tented) among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the only begotten from the father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1).  The apostle Paul also said, God was in Christ “reconciling the world to himself.”  In Christ, the veil of the myth is lifted and we see face to face the divine glory.  In Jesus, all the hero myths of history are fulfilled and clarified.  On the cross, he said “it is finished”.  God was unveiled in his final and complete form.  The revelation of God was complete.  God’s self-communication became a living being.

Moreover, in Jesus we see the perfect hero, which must be expected if the above is true.  Jesus covers all the bases and fulfills the needs of all men.  He is The Prophet, the Righteous King and The Faithful Priest.  Even more important, he is the Eternal one that never dies.  Did you ever notice that in most hero myths the hero never dies, or he dies and comes back to life.  In his resurrection, Jesus’ hero-ship is made perfect, and he becomes the standard of all truth and the judge of all the earth  “I am the way, the truth and the life”, “the Father has committed all things to the Son” and “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me.”

In the resurrection of the Jesus-hero we see his mission fulfilled; in going home leaving his people with the promise that he was coming back for them, to lead them out of the hostile country of darkness and into a place of glorious light.  His resurrection guarantees that he has the power to do what he promised.  No matter what you are experiencing on your journey Jesus has the power to save you and to help you complete your journey in hope and joy.

In summary, it might be said that there may be a 1000 heroes but they all have the same face and that is the face of Jesus.  The face of the mighty hero who would stand at the end of time.  This may not be a popular message in a pluralistic world where everything is supposed to be equal.  However, personally I believe that that pluralistic world dogma where everything is equal is the biggest lie of all time.  Not all heroes are equal.  There is a hierarchy of heroes and Jesus is on the top.  This does not take away from the other heroes, it simply means that they are to be viewed through the final revelation that comes through Jesus Christ.

[1] Myths are like parables they can reveal the truth for those seeking it or veil the truth to those that are not seeking it (Luke 8:9-10).

[2] The Greek word for the word “Word” in John 1:1 is a logos which the Greeks believed was the cosmic order or the wisdom and power that ordered the universe. That power had been revealed in myths for thousands of years before the coming of Christ and John says that Christ was the embodiment of it.

Science and Religion

Science and Religion

Natural science is the study of nature and religion is the study of how to live.  Religion is the collective knowledge of humanity on what works in living one’s life in the world.  Natural science does not tell us how to live or what the world is or its purpose but rather how it works.  What the world is and it’s purposes are metaphysical questions and cannot be answered by the Scientific method.  They are questions for philosophy and religion.

The minute science begins to try to tell us what the world and its purpose is, it ceases to be science and becomes philosophy or even religion.  Science cannot tell us what the world is any better than it can tell us what gravity is and for that matter, what science is.  If you say science is the study of nature you have not told me what it is but rather what it does.  For example, for measurement, gravity could be labeled a force but that does not tell you what gravity is but rather what it is like.  But what is a force?  Science mainly tells us how things behave and attempt to measure their behavior, and it often does this by the use of metaphors.  A good example of this is light.  Sometimes light behaves like a wave and other times like a particle.  On the other hand, religion also uses metaphors to explain life and right living.  These metaphors come in the form of stories, myths and similes.

Humans attempt to label and define everything with words.  It is our way of bringing order out of the chaos of existence.  Science, Philosophy and religion are the tools we use to do this labeling.  These disciplines are often so intermingled that it’s impossible for the majority of people to even get close to separating them.  Science is based on facts that can be demonstrated and tested and Philosophy is based on things inferred from the facts.  The problem is that inferences that are inferred from the facts can be infinite.  These inferences could be called hypothesis, or a stronger word could be theory.  A hypothesis has little or no factual evidence of its truthfulness; a theory on the other hand has evidence, but many lack the means of testing it or falsifying it.  If these two things are absent, a theory will always remain a theory. e.g. String theory.

There are two predominant philosophies  that attempt to explain what the world is.  They are materialism and dualism.  Materialism is the belief that everything is made up of matter.  Dualism is the belief that a second ingredient exists which they may call, spirit, consciousness, life force or something, which is unseen. It is important to remember that the ancients did not concern themselves with the nature of the seen or unseen.  They simply accepted the fact; there were things that we see and there were things we could not see.

The philosophies of materialism and dualism are not the dominant philosophy because they have  been proven by science.  Both have been around a long time and  were embraced before modern science was created.  You could call them the philosophies of existence, but neither should be called science in a true sense of the word.  Both have an element of faith.  The materialist believes that only matter exists but makes a leap of faith when he adds the word ‘only’. The dualist has the problem of testing what they would call spirit.

However, when everything is said, the debate between materialism and dualism will not settle the question, does God exist?  The debate if ever won would rather, simply help determine the definition and nature of the deity, which is quite impossible to know to begin with, if we are talking about the God of the Bible, who some  theologians within the church referred to “as the nothingness” to ensure they did not insult him with a belittling description.

 

Does the Earth’s Size Matter?

Does the Earth’s Size Matter?

I often hear people say that people in Biblical time believed that the earth was the center of the universe. This is truly a miraculous statement seeing that people in biblical times in general did not even know there was a universe. The truth is, it was early scientist’s who believed that the earth was the center of the universe, not biblical writers.

Furthermore, it was not until the 20th century that the idea of an expanding universe was set forth by Hubble. The consequence of that discovery was that the earth became relegated by pseudoscience to an insignificant place within the universe. This dogma of insignificance was totally based on its size and place of the earth in the universe. This thinking could be akin to saying that a man’s importance is based on how big he is and where he lived at a particular time and place. I guess these folks believe that if God created the world that he would’ve created it as the biggest planet in the universe for man to inhabit. Of course, this thinking comes from the childish idea that big is better or that God is just a big man. Therefore, he must create a big place for the beings created in his likeness.

From a theological point of view and a rational point of view, the earth’s significance may have nothing to do with its size or place within the universe but rather with its function. Could it’s importance be found in the fact that God placed the creature created in his likeness on the earth to grow and mature into the sons of God? Could the whole thing be based on relationship and purpose and not on size? There are numerous schools throughout our nation, some big some small, some better than others. However, when my kids were in school, I was interested in their small school more than any other school in the land, you see sometime importance is based on relationships and not size. God has no little people and no little place He just has relationships. “God is love”.

 

Rejecting the God of the Child

Rejecting the God of the Child

I have had a number of people tell me that they rejected God when they were a child.  When someone says this in most cases what they rejected was not the true God but rather the wrappings of religion or a child’s view of God.  For a child, most of religion does not make sense, especially the so-called worship service where the seated child’s feet are hanging in midair, and someone is preaching a message above their heads about a subject they are not much interested in.

Some children as they grow into adolescence confuse or equate the rejection of religion with the rejection of belief in God.  However, it is quite doubtful that any child would have the intelligence and the experiences of life to reject a mature view of the deity which their young minds are incapable of conceptualizing.  In most cases, what they reject is an anthropomorphic or personal corporal view of God, i.e. God is a man sitting upon a throne in heaven.  Of course, this picture thinking of God as a man would’ve been rejected by many if they had matured in their faith anyway.  The adult mind understands that the spiritual (unseen), and the physical are linked by metaphors and symbols that cannot be taken literally.  This is not only true in religion but in science as well.  I am still astonished at the number of atheists who cannot or refuse to look at these concepts metaphorically.

It may be time to rethink your beliefs about the unseen with your adult mind.  Try to think of God as pure spirit or pure personality.  If you are into reason try super consciousness.  If you’re into morality try thinking of him as the highest good.  If you are into relationships try thinking of him as pure love.  The Apostle John did refer to Him as love.  “God is love”.  However, remember that anything that we compare God within our human experience will fall short of the reality.  God is greater than any mortal mind can imagine so at best we must use metaphors and similes to speak of him.  Otherwise, he would not be God. If you want to know more about the true God check out my blog lyleduell.me

The Atheistic Criticism of Religion


The Atheistic Criticism of Religion

When an atheist criticizes religion for the most part  they are simply criticizing the human condition; which is one of ignorance, sinfulness and hypocrisy.  These characteristics can be found in any society, culture and civilization and for that matter in every person.  They are found in religious cultures, secular cultures and atheistic cultures.  They are common to all men. Pointing these things out in any culture modern or ancient does not take a great deal of intelligence nor understanding.  It reflects a pretentious self-righteousness when criticizing others to exalt oneself.  Given the same circumstances and conditions most humans will react in  similar ways.  Much of the criticism of religion by atheism is nothing more than posing self righteous virtue at the best, and total moral egotism at its worst.  Their criticism proves nothing other than humanity is ignorant, sinful, hypocritical and poisons everything he touches.

The truth is that atheism as an ideology or as a foundational philosophy for a culture, has demonstrated itself to be totally inadequate to support a virtuous culture any more than religion.  In fact, all atheistic cultures have led to totalitarianism and even Europe as it embraces the secular is moving towards totalitarianism.  One should be careful in tearing down the poor man’s house unless he has something better to offer.

Moreover, the atheistic criticism of Christianity represents a shallow understanding of the message of Jesus.  A casual reading of the New Testament would demonstrate to any rational person that Jesus never intended his teachings to be the foundation of any large society, for his teachings are too demanding for the masses.  Yet, many atheists continue to attack the teachings of Western Christianity as though they were the pristine teachings of Jesus; in this they demonstrate their ignorance or their dishonesty.  In the majority of cases it is ignorance, at least from my experience most atheists are quite ignorant of Christian theology and often depend on a vulgar interpretation of Christianity to justify their criticism.

https://lyleduell.me/2015/12/18/the-making-of-an-fundamentalist-atheist/

Quotes on The Relationship of Science and Religion

Science doesn’t draw conclusions about supernatural explanations Do gods exist? Do supernatural entities intervene in human affairs? These questions may be important, but science won’t help you answer them. Questions that deal with supernatural explanations are, by definition, beyond the realm of nature — and hence, also beyond the realm of what can be studied by science.” Science Dept — University of California at Berkeley
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“science describes and explains the natural world: it does not prove or disprove beliefs about the supernatural” — American Anthropological Association
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“no aspect of science can address supernatural questions…..supernatural entities by definition operate outside of natural laws and so [truly] cannot be investigated using methods of experimentation” — American Association For the Advancement of Science
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“Science is not based on faith, nor does it preclude faith” — American Astronomical Society
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” theologians may also be interested in the physical world, but in addition they usually believe in a metaphysical or supernatural realm inhabited by souls, spirits, angels, or gods, and this heaven or nirvana is often believed to be the future resting place of all believers after death. Such supernatural constructions are beyond the scope of science” — National Academy of Sciences
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” science is precluded from making statements about supernatural forces because these are outside its provenance.” — National Science Teachers Association
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“Explanations employing nonnaturalistic or supernatural events, whether or not explicit reference is made to a supernatural being, are outside the realm of science …. all of science, is necessarily silent on religion and neither refutes nor supports the existence of a deity or deities.” National Association of Biology Teachers