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Good with God?

Atheists often talk about being good without God. It's a phrase that tries to encapsulate the idea that there's no conflict in saying that you don't have to be religious to be a morally decent man – basically, rejecting the idea that all atheists didn't believe in right and wrong, couldn't be trusted, and so on. I believe that, at least in the sense that atheists can love their mums, feed the homeless, and otherwise do all the stuff that are approved of in polite society. There's a larger question, of course, of what we mean by good and whether following all the rules makes us good or not, but even without getting into all of that, I think there's an interesting question to be asked. Namely:

Atheists claim they can be good without God. But what about theists? But what about religion? Does believing in God actually make you more likely to behave morally? Is it helpful where ethics are concerned.

The obvious answer is probably the idea that God rewards good behavior. Say that whenever I use the word "good" you can substitute in the phrase "commanded by God." (This is essentially Divine Command Theory's view.) If God actually exists and He's in the punishment game (so that doing X will result in punishment Y), that solves the question of why we should bother with morality. God, after all, is powerful, and pleasing him is likely to help you out in practical terms. There's also the argument that DCT avoids the problem in arbitrariness in ethics. If, say, we let the King of England decide what is moral at any point in time, then right would change as the king changes (either by maturing or by dying and being replaced by his son). In theory, torturing kittens could be wrong one day and personally permissible the next. But God doesn't change and He doesn't die, so this means what is right yesterday will still be right tomorrow.

I've never been terribly fond of those reasons, personally. It feels a bit shallow, almost sycophantic, and for me my sense of morality is much more developed than that. But since I went into philosophy, I came across a much more rigorous argument against DCT, which I find basically familiar. Those of you who took freshman philosophy may have hear of the Euthyphro Dilemma. Essentially: Plato argues that, if "right" just means commanded by God, we can rightly ask which came first, morality or God? If something is moral just because God commanded it, that means that if God commanded you to torture kittens it would be right to do that – basically, that whatever God commands, that's moral no matter what our sort of inner sense of ethics tells us. On the other hand, if God commands us to do something because it's moral, then it's moral because of some power, and that other power is controlling God's pronouncements, not God's decision. Which would basically mean God can't be omnipotent, since there's something else controlling what God can control. Since neither possibility pans out, the first assumption – that "right" was just another word for "commanded by God," doesn't really stand up to scrutiny either, and must be wrong.

To be sure, there are answers people have developed to this argument. One of my personal favorites follows along the same line of argument as the old philosophical chestnut, could God create a boulder so heavy He couldn't move it? It seems that either way,, there would have to be something God couldn't do – either a limit on what He could create, or else a limit on what He could do with the world He created. One answer (I think proposed by C.S. Lewis, but don't quote me on that) is that God could create a rock so heavy that – within the world as it currently exists – no one could move it, and then God could move it in essence by reorienting the world so the rock is a meter to the right. Similarly, we might say that God could make torturing kittens for fun and profit the right thing to do, but the way He'd do that is by reorienting the world so that torturing kittens actually was the best thing to do in that situation. In which case it would no longer seem wrong to us, but natural. And in which case God couldn't arbitrarily command something that wasn't already good; it would involve a complete redefining of reality.

There are other options, but none are anywhere near as convincing to me. They just don't seem to talk about what most people mean by God and by right/wrong. The tricky thing is that if this is true – if morality is as much a feature of the universe as gravity – then that seems to mean we should be able to discover it by observing the world. Looking at the kinds of things that really do promote human and total flourishing, and nail them down into moral laws. There shouldn't be any need for God to command anything, since the kind of thing God commands is already part and parcel with the way the universe is. This is actually a line of thought more or less in line with what Paul said: "Just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned – for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no Law." (Romans 5:12-13, NASB) I mention the Biblical precedent because it's a line of thought Christians should be more or less familiar with, if they read their Bibles. Good and evil is not something created by God's commands; it is a feature of reality even before there was the command.

So back to my original question. Does believing in God actually make it easier to be moral? There may be other good reasons to believe in God or to be a member of a religion whether you believe in God or not, which I won't go into because it's the holidays and I'm not keen to jump into deep thought. *g* But the ethics question is interesting in its own right. Does being religious help you do the right thing?

I think so, personally, and I think understanding why will help explain why some people do really awful things in the name of religion while others genuinely become more moral: they're not using the religion in a way that actually promotes moral growth. Whatever else a religion might be (true theology, good or bad metaphysics, psychological comfort, etc.), it is also a language that helps us grapple with deep ideas. It gives us a tradition to grapple with, that frames the discussion in a way that we can come to grips with it. To be sure, people can find this in other contexts. Philosophers, religious or otherwise, read the great thoughts of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, Marx, Russell, Camus – pick your poison. And they read it and try to make sense of it, comparing one philosopher to another or different texts between the same philosopher, or even just the philosopher and our everyday experience. Scientists too have to deal with the implications of scientific advancements. (Does the fact that our actions are controlled by brain impulses take away moral responsibility? Are stem cells human lives? etc.). So the non-religious may find a tradition that helps them at that – but to my mind, there are also some real advantages to using a religion-based language.

First, whether or not the religious text is actually infallible or divinely-written, many people actually believe it is. This raises the stakes quite a bit over philosophical writing or scientific advancements that must be grappled with, because the people doing the grappling are in some way constructing their own language. Natural law seems to lead to bizarre consequences? Chuck it. Descartes's Dream Argument simply seems too out there to be allowed? Then just exclude it from your vocabulary. People dealing with a religious text like the Bible or the Koran don't have that luxury because they aren't defining the vocabulary; they are working within it. This raises the stakes substantially, and forces the religious person to think long and hard about both how they read the text and also the assumptions they bring to the table with them.

I've seen that a lot in my own experience as I've struggled over how to approach LGBT issues. I am familiar of course with the famous clobber texts (Sodom and Gomorrah, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, etc.) Growing up I heard them used to show why homosexuality was always a sin – and, since Christianity teaches the possibility of atonement, that usually meant that gay people could repent of their sin. Quite aside from issues of protecting marriage, I was taught that we shouldn't "enable" homosexuality through gay rights, any more than you should offer wine to a recovering alcoholic. But then I had several good friends who also happened to be gay, and seemed just as happy and fulfilled in their relationships as I was in mine. I also realized that I had not chosen to be attracted to men, so it didn't seem like my friends should choose to be attracted to the same gender.

Rather than simply pushing aside my experience or making some sort of vague statement that "God is love" and so how could the expression of any kind of love be sinful, I decided to wrestle with the Bible. And with my own beliefs based on my experience, of course. Being raised Methodist, I'm pretty strongly influenced by the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, which basically says we understand God best by using Scripture, tradition (including contemporary scholarship), our own experience, and our reason. Since truth does not conflict truth, then there can only be seeming conflicts with the Bible and reality. Sometimes our perceptions are wrong, but often too sometimes how we understand the Bible is wrong. So if I have been taught my whole life that homosexuality was a sin but my experience didn't bear that out, maybe it was time to examine those beliefs more closely, and – just as importantly! – examine the way I read the Bible. Just because my pastor says it's true doesn't mean that's what the Bible means. Struggling against something that cannot so easily be set aside is a good struggle, and religion gives people ready access to just something like that.

Moving on, another way I think religion helps you become good is through the variety of people trying to work out what the religion means regarding right and wrong. Philosophers dealing with Kant are, well, philosophers. That's neither good nor bad in itself, but there is a certain type of person that's attracted to philosophy, and to academia more generally. There's an inherent bias in academia, part class and part race/gender, but also just on personality traits: only brainiacs would choose to read big books for a living. That means that the person who is more drawn to work with his hands, or become an artist or a computer programmer or a therapist, and so on. Religions do deal with all those people, and so – to greater or lesser extent – these kind of people try to make sense of what the Bible says and what that means for their beliefs. I don't agree with all of them, but having the different approaches available has some sort of evolutionary advantage, I think. It creates competition, and it offers options you don't have with other languages to help you think about morality.

One final point in favor of religion can actually help you be good. Religions have a built-in community, and for centuries they have been the heart of the larger community. Religious affiliation tends to be inherited (if you're Catholic, Baptist, Hindu, etc., your kids probably will be, too), and it's one of the most family-centered institutions out there. It's also, in many areas, the provider of the ceremonies that mark various life stages: birth, coming-of-age, marriage, death. My friends were always from church, because that's where the organized activities were and where you regularly met people and interacted with them as people rather than as a way to get something you needed. Now, I'm more or less an Aristotelian in my ethics, which means I recognize the vital role of friendship and of role-models. You become courageous (or whatever) according to Aristotle because you see a courageous person and copy her actions until they become second nature. And friendship, true friendship, is what inspires you to be the best person you can be. That means that a person who is in a network of relationships will want to become more like those people he respects, which will usually involve some sort of moral growth. Now I know secular crowds are working on this, and in some areas they do quite well at it. But, at least in my experience, the church was always better at providing deep community, the kind likely to lead to Aristotle's virtue-based friendships, than any country club or civic organization ever was.

To be sure, there are problems with using religion as a way to become more moral. It can lead to complacency and smugness. For some personality types, there's a drive to trust in authority too much. And for those people, more secular ways of making sense of morality may be helpful as well or even instead of religion. But I think there are real benefits, too, and for many people religion can be a real help toward being moral. I say all of this without making any claim about whether religion's claims about theology are true or not. I believe most of them are, but I also don't think you really need to talk about them to see why religion can be useful here. It's possible, I think, to be good without God – but for many people, it just may be easier to be good when you believe in God or at least participate in a religious group.

Now, I mentioned at the top that I think all of this makes sense of why some religious people are moral and why others can be the worst kind of bigots, thieves, and charlatans. Every group has its bad apples, of course, but religion does seem to have more than secular groups. It's not just size, though that's a part of it. Before I mentioned that religion tends to be inherited. If I'm born a Baptist and don't care enough to consider my beliefs carefully, I'll almost certainly remain a Baptist. On the other hand, if I do consider my beliefs carefully I may decide they hold up and choose to stay in that group; or I may decide to leave it. So basically, some members of each group will be coasting off inertia and some people just won't have considered it enough to make up their mind. Atheism doesn't really have the critical mass or the history and relation with politics and culture to face that same problem. Some Christians are reflective and working to improve themselves, but not all. With atheists, the group you start off with has almost all considered their beliefs more carefully.

Why does that matter? Quite simply, people who have thought about a belief are more likely o act on it. So on the surface, just because someone's a Christian doesn't mean that she's been influenced by Christian ideals or the ways Christianity can help you become an atheist. Whatever benefits atheism has in that area, they're more likely to influence each individual atheist. That doesn't change the fact that Christianity, and religion generally, can help people become good people; it just makes that benefit less obvious.

One last thing: just because I find religion practically helpful in becoming a better person, that doesn't mean that atheists are bad people. I do think atheists believe in right and wrong and can be trusted to live by the same rules society depends on. (It's a little trickier to answer whether anyone's actions, religious or otherwise, actually makes them good, but that falls under the category of "deeper arguments I'm calling a Christmas truce on.) But sometimes when people talk about being good without God, there's this assumption that if you're religious you're always less ethical than the atheist. Sometimes I get sick about that, because I know how religion actually helped me develop my character. It's also not as tied down to groupthink as outsiders tend to think, at least in my experience. So I thought it might be interesting to lay out why I thought religion could actually be helpful here.

As a P.S., Dr. Louise Anthony has a really interesting article on this topic over at the NY Times. If you enjoy thinking about this topic, it's well worth your time.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
dwimordene_2011
Dec. 24th, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
Merry Christmas!
I think the amusing thing here is that basically, atheists and religious folk have the same argument working in their favor against misconceptions: some atheists are nihilists - they get the attention. Some religious folk are religious fanatics - they get the attention. In each case, we separate a part from the larger whole, and say, "That's actually not how most of us see things, please don't chuck the baby with the bathwater!"

Which seems about right to me, since atheism, despite its pretensions, is a theological position - the position that there is no God and that that means something. Welcome to every problem religion has ever had, because we are human beings thinking about ultimate commitments!

Anyhow, a very Merry Christmas to you, Marta! All the best wishes for a peaceful, fruitful 2012!

Dwim
marta_bee
Dec. 24th, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Merry Christmas!
I have a lot of sympathy for atheists dealing with the nihilism stigma, because every time James Dobson opens his mouth I cringe and want to tell the next person I meet that I'm not that kind of Christian. (Same thing with Rick Perry and being Southern-born, incidentally...) I think you're right that the two really are exploring similar phainomena, and so the similarities make sense.

And thanks for the felicitations! I appreciate them.
celandineb
Dec. 24th, 2011 08:35 pm (UTC)
I have to disagree with Dwim that atheism is a theological position. Unless you want to say that asserting that theology is a null subject because there is nothing real to discuss, is in itself theological.

I'll also disagree with you, Marta, that religion helps people be more moral in general. It might be so for you personally, but on average, I doubt it - for the reason that you yourself mention, that most atheists have thought long and hard about moral behavior since they reject the assumptions of religion, whereas a large proportion of believers have never bothered to question those assumptions.
marta_bee
Dec. 24th, 2011 08:47 pm (UTC)
I have to disagree with Dwim that atheism is a theological position. Unless you want to say that asserting that theology is a null subject because there is nothing real to discuss, is in itself theological.

I can't speak for Dwim, but I actually think she's on to something. If I'm going to say there aren't any cats in this room, I first have to know what a cat is. In the same way, if you're going to say that there is no such thing as God, you first have to know what would count as a God and then argue that there's no one that actually meets that idea. So there is a theological component (you're defining and thinking about the concept of God), though it's not theology in the sense that you think anything actually meets that definition.

I'll also disagree with you, Marta, that religion helps people be more moral in general. It might be so for you personally, but on average, I doubt it - for the reason that you yourself mention, that most atheists have thought long and hard about moral behavior since they reject the assumptions of religion, whereas a large proportion of believers have never bothered to question those assumptions.

I'll have to reread the post to see what I said that gave you that impression. (I wrote half of it last night and half this morning, so it's possible I'm just not remembering what I said clearly.) I didn't mean that if you polled all the religious people in the world 51% are actually more moral than they would have been without religion. What I meant was that religion has the potential to help everyone who is a part of them, and that it does help many of the people that actually use it properly.

As for numbers, I don't think it's just me. I go to school at a Jesuit school, and so I see lots of Catholics who are more moral people than they would have been otherwise because they have a religious community to play off against, and because they struggle to make sense of Aquinas or whomever and see if they agree with it. It would be interesting to figure out whether atheism or theism had actually helped more people become moral (in terms of raw numbers, not % of their respective groups). Though I don't have the first clue how you'd quantify that...
celandineb
Dec. 24th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
Religion may have the potential to help people become more moral... but so does just about anything. What matters is the level of self-examination, and the ability to consider others beyond oneself, and simply reading a good novel can do that!

If you're talking raw numbers then certainly more people have been helped to become moral from theism or religion, because there are simply many many more people in those groups than there are atheists. Percentages of their groups are a more meaningful comparison. But I doubt there's any reasonable way to measure.
marta_bee
Dec. 24th, 2011 09:59 pm (UTC)
If you're talking raw numbers then certainly more people have been helped to become moral from theism or religion, because there are simply many many more people in those groups than there are atheists. Percentages of their groups are a more meaningful comparison. But I doubt there's any reasonable way to measure.

Actually, I disagree. That's one of the things I was trying to get at above. Religions include many people who simply aren't doing the self-reflecting. If those people had been born to atheists, they would be no more or less moral than they are because they were born to a religious person. The difference is, because institutional religion has been around longer, you have many more people who "inherit" a religion, while atheism gets most of its members through choice.

You could maybe get a meaningful comparison if you looked at people who were actually using their tradition's resources to try to become more moral, and look at how many succeeded. But that would be even more impossible to do scientifically than raw numbers.

(Thanks for your thoughts on all of this, by the way. I find it interesting to discuss this issue with someone who has given it as much thought as you have.)
dwimordene_2011
Dec. 25th, 2011 01:43 am (UTC)
Well, "theology" to me means arguments concerning God. Atheism is an argued statement about the reality and relevance of God, which also has, as Marta noted, to define what it thinks God is in order to say "That doesn't exist and it's irrelevant to... [name phenomenon]." (And of course then you have to say "what is existence", etc.) That doesn't mean atheism doesn't have a radically different tone and content from most religious theology that sets it apart, but it doesn't mean it's an oxymoron or a contradiction in terms to say atheism is a theological position.

The other question - whether religion helps people be moral, or can help - keeps getting looped through this idea of reflection and who reflects more. From what I understand, atheism as a hyperreflective position vis-à-vis religious faith is a historically contingent fact - as historically contingent as the fact that most people were raised in some religious tradition or other and gained a language and form of ritualized, institutional expression for moral affects in a religious setting. Given that, I more or less expect that if ever the majority of people end up atheists, the majority will be as unreflective about it as the majority of religious believers - that's just human nature, to follow the familiar cultural path until something stimulates the desire to consider other options. Neither atheism nor theism is a guarantor in itself of reflectiveness.

To me, it's abundantly clear that one neither needs to be atheist or a religious theist to be ethical. Personally, I don't find that an interesting question, and wouldn't spend a lot of time on it (personally). The more difficult question, which I sometimes think motivates how debates about whether one can be a theist and reflective (read: good in some morally commendable way) or an atheist and good (read: trustworthy) go, is: given that religion is neither necessary nor sufficient for a person to be morally good, does its lack of necessity or sufficiency make it not worth doing?

If that's the deeper level issue, then I don't know that there's any non-biased way to respond. One's practice, and one's community practice, answer that question one way or the other for the practitioner and perhaps also for others who are less involved but taking the opportunity to observe and reflect. But I doubt it'll be a universalizable answer, regardless of what that answer is.

That's where I am on these sorts of issues at the moment, anyway - subject to change as more information and ideas percolate in!

Dwim

Edited at 2011-12-25 05:23 am (UTC)
dawn_felagund
Dec. 24th, 2011 08:49 pm (UTC)
I'm neither religious nor atheist: I'm a good ol' fence-sitting agnostic. I was raised in a completely arreligious family; I set foot in a Christian church a whole four times before I was 18: two Communions for cousins, one wedding, and one funeral. I'll also admit from the start that the fact that my sister was forced to move to a foreign country to marry the person she loves makes me sick at heart and angry in a way that has not dulled despite the passage of time. So that's where I come from. :)

I would never make the argument that religion can never help someone to become a more moral or ethical person. However, I don't agree that this is usually the way of it, as much as I wish that it was, for the simple reason that ... well, most Christians aren't like you, Marta. :) I haven't met many people who identify strongly as Christians who are willing to engage in the level of thought and contemplation that you are about the meaning of the texts that guide your faith.

A question I would ask: Are most Christian churches teaching contemplation? Or are they teaching obedience? Where I live--rural Maryland, so mostly Christian though hardly the Bible Belt--there was recently a church sign that read, "Teach your children obedience." My experiences--as an outsider, admittedly--are that this is unfortunately common. So, yes, while I think that religion does have the potential to promote moral/ethical behavior, unfortunately I don't feel like most Christian churches are doing much of anything to encourage that ... and in some cases, they are doing much to actively discourage that.

Community can go both ways for me too. Yes, community can be a valuable support network and way to learn positive values via social learning ... but it can also become a means of providing pressure that encourages conformity and censure of people and viewpoints that do not agree with what the community believes. For example, I remember, when I was taking social psychology as an undergrad, a presentation on social influence from a young woman who had attended a state university in a Bible Belt state. The woman was not Christian. She was approached several times by other dorm residents whom she'd "befriended" about attending church and Bible study groups with them; of course, she declined. Eventually, she was ostracized to the point that she chose to transfer back to a university in Maryland. As an agnostic in a non-Bible Belt state, I've been physically dragged into religious observances I had no desire to participate in. I'm sure the people who did that to me wanted me to feel part of the "community." They didn't. They made me feel violated and like they were too ignorant or intolerant--maybe a bit of both--to realize that every young white woman who espouses the values of peace and kindness isn't a Christian. As a third and final example, one of my closest high school friends--who found her spirituality aligning more with traditional Native American beliefs--was nonetheless confirmed as a Catholic because she so feared the censure of her parents and church community if she admitted that she wasn't a Catholic much less a Christian.

My point is that communities can exert quite a different pressure on those who are on the outside. The cynic in me would point out that that may be part of the reason why some religious leaders make such a concerted effort to build strong communities compared to the communities that arise around secular activities, especially among young people: because social influence is one of the strongest motivators of behavior.

So I come away from your post with a better understanding of how religion can help some people to develop morals or ethics, for which I am grateful; I do try to be tolerant, although I have to admit that I'm sometimes so hurting and so angry that it is difficult to do so. However, I'm still not convinced that most people who strongly identify as Christian are making the efforts that you describe to do so ... and for those whose lives have been shaped negatively by a religion to which they do not themselves ascribe, that's unfortunately what ultimately matters.
marta_bee
Dec. 24th, 2011 10:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your comment, Dawn. I'm glad you took what I said so seriously, and took so much time to write out your reaction. Re: obedience vs. reflection, I think that depends an awful lot on the age of the person in question. When I was a small child (maybe through 7-8 years old) obedience was encouraged. Then as I got older there was a good deal more critical thought. I also noticed a big difference when I moved from the suburb of a fairly large city in SC, to a small mountain town in western NC. There's variation from tradition to tradition as well. Episcopalians and Catholic tend to be very good at developing critical thought, in my experience, as do Jews. Baptists and Presbyterians (and perhaps the ultra-Orthodox among Jews) tend to be more geared toward obedience. My own denomination, the Methodists, was a bit all over the map. *g*

I hear what you are saying about community - as a deep thinker on the inside, you can imagine that I had some head-butting experiences with other religious people! Still do, which is why I'm so glad I'm in a Jesuit school these days where most people *do* emphasize free thought and critical thinking over obedience. Which is why I'm trying hard not to say that atheism is always better at developing character, or theism is always, or that Christianity is better than Judaism or whatever. I think each approach has strengths and weaknesses, and that one approach will probably be more useful than another to a particular person.

Mainly, this post came from feeling a bit frustrated at a line of argument I've seen many places (both from Christians and theists, actually!): that being a good person who's religious is all about following the rules blindly. I think religion actually can develop our characters and critical abilities, from those in a position to use it; though of course bad religious communities harm those people inside and outside the flock. And I mainly wanted to explain a bit of why I felt religion and morality wasn't quite so simple as all that.
gwynnyd
Dec. 26th, 2011 06:10 pm (UTC)
" I think religion actually can develop our characters and critical abilities, from those in a position to use it; "

So, let me see if I understand the process. You take a set of writings and run them through a filter that consists of what you have learned from the thought of past and current philosophers. You compare this to the original writings and the current standards of the society you live in. You pick apart the original writings using "sophisticated" techniques and an understanding of the historical context of the original writings to come up with a solution that - oh look! - agrees with what you want them to say anyway.

If someone followed "the rules" blindly in their entirety, they would be doing a lot of things that are currently illegal or perhaps feeling persecuted because they could not follow them without running afoul of current societal standards.

Leviticus 25:44 for example seems quite clear to me; no matter the translation or the "context," it says you are allowed to buy slaves. Society has moved away from what was acceptable in the society when Leviticus was written so I don't think any decent person in the 21st Century thinks owning slaves is a good idea or allowed by their religion. So, yes, of course you can take that verse and turn it into a metaphor, or take it in the "context" of the society in which it was written and claim that it does not actually mean what it says, because the omnipotent, greatest good that is god would never seriously disagree with the standards of my society and we all agree NOW that owning other people, even if they are from an out-group, is bad.

What is the "critical thinking" that doing religion "the right way" promotes? It seems to me to be the ability to examine the doctrinal writings and figure out a way that they can be made to support whatever moral tenets are or, in your opinion, ought to be the current societal standards. In this atheist's opinion that is just as likely to lead to murder and mayhem as to peaceable co-existence.

Every set of religious doctrines has something akin to Leviticus 25:44. Maybe not slavery, but something that has to either be explained away to do whatever you define as "good" - I can see you must rationalize and contort and contextualize Corinthians 14:34-35, after all, or you would not be out there thinking and speaking up while female - or - if the results are not "good" in my opinion - adhered to regardless of the horrendous consequences, such as when you get people being suicide bombers or killing doctors who do procedures your scriptures don't agree with.

For those like me who find as much objectionable in religious doctrine as I find laudable (and yes, of course there are very laudable portions, too) it seems to me that always using scripture as the starting point is counterproductive to actually discovering a useful moral system. It certainly gives you techniques to weasel words into meaning whatever you want, but I don't find that necessarily praiseworthy.





dreamflower02
Dec. 25th, 2011 04:17 am (UTC)
This is a fascinating discussion in which I am too exhausted to participate much at the moment, save to say I know some atheists who are kinder, more thoughtful about issues and more honest than some Christians I know.

I know that there was something I thought of, reading your post, but I can't think how to put it at the moment. But I know that part of what helps a religious person be a better person than they would be without God is something nebulous and unrelated to something as simple as commandments and obedience...

((((hugs)))) and Merry Christmas!!
marta_bee
Dec. 26th, 2011 03:08 am (UTC)
I appreciate the time you spent thinking about it. Christmas can be either very busy or very laid-back, and for me it's the latter; but I can imagine for you it's the former.

Happy holy-days to you, too!
(Deleted comment)
marta_bee
Dec. 26th, 2011 03:04 am (UTC)
You're right of course, Alex, and it's an important factor to be sure. I think I didn't delve into that because the other issues I went into were so practical, and that help seems very theoretical, in that it assumes God exists and relies on that. So explaining that part of why it's helpful would be a very different type of post. (And I felt like it was longish already.

Thank you for bringing it up.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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