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.

When Waking Up Is A Nightmare

When Waking Up Is A Nightmare

Do you remember the movie The Matrix  where Morpheus told Neo that he had a choice between taking a blue pill or a red pill?  If  Neo chose the blue pill he would remain asleep living in a world of illusions.  However if he chose the red pill he would wake up and see the world the way it really is, not so pretty but real.  Jesus said something similar when he told Nicodemus that a man had to be born again to see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:1-5).

However, beware, for someone has been tampering with the pills and some blue pills have been colored red.  If you take one of these faux blue pills you will wake up in a world with no good or evil, no purpose  and no meaning.  One of the illusions in that world is; if you try hard enough you can manufacture some personal meaning and even a personal morality.  In this nightmarish world people spend a great deal of time convincing themselves that they are good and justify themselves.  In that world people spend enormous amounts of time trying to find meaning and purpose.  However, in that world try as they may, no one can find ultimate purpose or meaning inside of themselves and above their own  opinion.  In fact, in that world all you have is your opinion.  The reason is that only an Ultimate can give ultimate meaning and truth.  You cannot give something that you don’t have.  You cannot give ultimate meaning to anything because you do not possess it within yourself.  All you can give others and yourself is the ultimate illusion that your life has some meaning in itself, and of itself.  The first thing that a person should realize when they are really awake, is that there must be an Ultimate and they are not it.

When a person attempts to find meaning in himself it is  evident that he is still asleep.  He’s accepted the ultimate illusion that he can have meaning apart from an Ultimate.  The truly awake atheist (if there is such a person) will live a meaningless life of despair (nihilist)  knowing his life is as meaningless as a spec of dust, which he ultimately knows he is.  Some in that world seem to get some comfort out of the fact that they can call it star-dust, hinting at its complexity but in the end it is still dust.

Jesus talked about taking a pill that will wake you up so you can see the world and yourself, the way  you truly are and the way God see’s you and the world.  It also will allow you to see the way it will be when God has put everything right, which allows one to live in faith, hope and love.

Jesus once offered a red pill to a young wealthy man who thought he was okay because he obeyed all the rules.  Jesus told him that if he would take the red pill he would have to give up his wealth and follow Him.  The story says that when the young wealthy man heard this he went away sorrowfully because he loved his possessions more than he did the truth or God.  What is it in your life that is keeping you from taking the real red pill?

The Religious Impulse

The Religious Impulse

Hi – I’m reading “Heresies: Against Progress And Other Illusions” by John Gray and wanted to share this quote with you and a few thoughts I have on it.  Gray is an English public intellectual and is an unbeliever.  I say this up front to simply refute the claim of bias by the atheistic community.

Here is Gray’s quote “For many, the promises of religion lack credibility; but the fear that inspires them has not gone away, and secular thinkers have turned to a belief in progress that is further removed from the basic facts of human life than any religious myth”.

“Traditional religion is in retreat but it has not been replaced by rationality.  Modern societies are full of occult and millenarian cults.  They abound in new, short-lived religions, ‘flickering and fading’, as J.G. Ballard has put it, ‘like off-peak commercials’.”

The first thing that I would like to point out is the fact that man seems to be Homo religious in his very nature, i.e., he is not taught to be religious, he is hardwired to be religious.  To say that he is taught religion is to use the word religion in its most narrow sense.  If we use it in a broad sense of the word religion, let’s say the concept of ultimate concern, it becomes easy to see that man is by his very nature religious.  It is easy to see how ones ultimate concern can slip in to being an idol and become ones religion.

Many questions could be raised when Gray speaks about rationality taking the place of religion.  Could we not talk about the myth that humanity is rational?  Could anyone make the claim that humans on the whole are rational?  Could you not say that in some groups, that rationality is their ultimate concern and therefore their religion?  Could it be that religion is necessary for one to be rational?  It seems to me that as a culture loses its religious, it also loses its ability to reason.  The decay and the downfall of many cultures seem to follow their loss of faith in their gods, which results in them being plunged into the dark ages.  In the west this has held true, we first lost faith in God and it was not long before we began to question reason.  (note the positivists and idealist movement of the past, and now the post modern movement of today).

Another question that Gray’s remarks resurrect, is the question of the fears that he mentioned as the cause, or sources of religion.  Here we need to ask a number of questions.  The most basic is, are the fears real?  What about the fear of death?  First of all death is real.  All men must die.  The next question that arises would be, is the fear of death rational?  My answer is absolutely yes.  We are an organism that from the very beginning of our existence has been programmed to resist death and strive to stay alive and to live.  Therefore the fear of death is natural to the species.  Fear is part of the evolution programming and is implanted in the human psyche.  To tell people that the fear of death is irrational is counter intuitive.  We are programmed to fear anything that threatens our life.  You could say that it is natural to fear death and anything that threatens our organic existence.  Still, another huge question.  Is there something for the masses of men better than traditional religion, especially Christianity to deal with these fears?  Could it be that the Creator programmed humans to seek life and fear death?  Seeing that God is the living God or the God of life, it would seem right for him to plant the survival impulse into every creature.  In this, the survival impulse is an impulse from God and towards God.

I say all this to point out that faith with reason is the only practical way to approach reality.  Faith in Christ gives people the authority and courage to face the big questions of life.  Questions like, who am I, what is my purpose and where am I going?  Faith in Christ also destroys the idol of reason, taking it off its throne and restores it to its rightful place as a gift from God, a tool to help us structure our lives and to help us find truth.

 

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.

 

The Great Atheist Illusion

 The Great Atheist Illusion

The greatest illusion embraced by the atheist is not that there’s no God but rather that they are free from illusions.  The belief that you are free of all illusions is the most dangerous illusion of all for it opens the floodgates to the acceptance of unreality in a multitude of forms.

It is evident that atheists have not experienced God but how in the world can they deny that others have not experienced Him.  Seeing that experiencing God is a personal matter that cannot be judged empirically by outsiders, as no one can get into another man’s mind or body to know how or what he is, or has experienced.  However, this is the very thing that an atheist must claim.  This claim springs from an illusion of omniscience and an assumption that the only true knowledge must be objective knowledge.

We know that human beings experience pain to various degrees, and that it is impossible for one to experience another man’s pain exactly and to the same degree.  The same thing is true of our experience of God.  People experience God in different ways and to distinct degrees.  Therefore, the atheist claim that there is no God is totally unreasonable and contrary to the experiences of billions of people. Have they tested empirically everyone’s experience of God?  The only real claim that they can reasonably make is that they have not personally experienced God.  Even so, in their arrogance they go one step further and say that no one has, or can experience God and if they claim they have, they are delusional.

The most that atheists can honestly claim is that they have not experienced God. However, that might be saying too much for they could have encountered God and not recognized it as a God experience.  This could be a very likely theorem seeing that their preconceived biases could keep them from recognizing a God experience if they had one.  The most that an atheist can say is that they have not had an understandable experience of God.  Of course, many atheists will say, if they have not experienced God, that he cannot exist or that God in some way is obligated to reveal to them himself in such a way that he would be undeniable.  They seldom blame themselves for accepting an ideology or world view that will not allow them to experience God.  It could be that they’re like a blind man who denies the existence of color because he cannot see it or has not experienced it and then blames color for their inability to see it.

In the end, the old saying that a man with an argument will never convince the man with an experience is true.  The only person in whom the atheists experience will stick and will move to their unbelief are those who have never experienced God and are already in a sense in the atheist camp. The atheist will never be able to argue that God does not exist, with a man who has experienced Him.  That would be like telling a man who was rescued from the sea, by an other man in a lifeboat, that the other man did not exist.

Humans come to know things through many ways.  We learn through our mind, but we also learn through our other senses.  In actuality, our mind processes the information that we get through our other senses.  However, if some sense has been crippled or damaged, we may become dead to that sense and no longer be able to experience it or the things that it was created to sense.  It could be also that some knowledge requires more than one sense and channel.  I think this is the case with the knowledge of God.  The knowledge of God requires the whole man.  If any part of the man has been damaged or disabled it becomes increasingly hard for that man to experience God in any meaningful way.

Therefore, talking to a hardened atheist is like talking with a handicap man who doesn’t know that he’s handicapped.  I once talked to a young atheist who I knew growing up, who had grown  up in a very dysfunctional family where there was a great deal of brokenness.  His parents claimed to be Christians and for whatever reason they could not work through their dysfunction.  This environment caused him to be bitter towards his father and somewhat towards his mother.  The bitterness not only hardened him from having a relationship with his father but it also hardened him to having faith in God.  Being an intelligent person he had to come up with a rational explanation for his lack of faith.  His self-justifying mechanism is the source of his unbelief and not his intellect.