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A couple of years ago, some Atheist groups started putting up billboards with the message, “You don’t need to be religious to be a good person.”
Now that’s an interesting thought. They never defined what they meant by “good person,” but it does have a certain logical ring to it that, for many people, makes sense. After all, most people who are Atheists are not murderers or thieves, they are just normal people going about working and living their lives. They are what most people would consider “good people.”
Recently, Pew Research did some polling on this subject and their findings indicate that most people in the U.S. (and other “advanced countries,” as well) say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral. Overall, about two-thirds of Americans believe that, while only about a third believe that God is an essential component of morality.
Personally, I find that quite an interesting point of view. I suppose my first question would be, “What does it mean to be a ‘good person?’” What is the standard people must attain in order to be considered good?
Well, that is a great question. How do all these people who claim to be “good people” know that they are actually good? In order to judge something “good,” there has to be some standard to measure it by. So, just what is their standard? The truth is, Atheists don’t have an objective standard for determining goodness.
I have, over the years, had numerous conversations with Atheists where I have addressed this very subject. In attempting to answer, they almost always bring up certain values as their measures for goodness. You can pretty much always count on “the golden rule” being in the mix. But they also generally advocate for such things as not being a murderer (unless, of course, it is a preborn baby), a liar, a cheater, a theif, and a whole host of other things that the Bible calls sin.
But the question then arises, why these particular values? They don’t believe in God, so don’t see what is taught in the Bible as a place they can pull from. Thus, their reason for picking these has nothing to do with what is taught there. That being the case, where do they get off calling their preferred values good? The fact is, they really don’t have any objective reason for doing so. To them, it only “seems right.”
From a Christian perspective, it “seems right” because God has put a witness of Himself in the conscience of every person. But that is not a legitimate answer for Atheists. They don’t believe in God. So, they come up with such reasoning as “we naturally evolved that moral sense because it promotes the survival of the species.”
The only problem is, that answer is a total non-answer. How do they know that to be true? Well, they don’t! It is a logical conclusion from their naturalistic (atheistic) philosophical beliefs, but there is no way for them to determine that it is actually true. It is based purely on faith in their naturalistic philosophy – that is, it is their religious belief.
So, is it possible for a person to be moral if they don’t believe in God? Well, if they get to define for themselves what is moral and what is immoral, they can certainly claim to be able to live a moral life. All they have to do is make up moral rules that correspond to how they want to live. With that as a starting place, it also can be moral to:
- kill babies in the womb,
- censor philosophical and political opponents,
- live a homosexual lifestyle,
- lie, cheat, and steal (as long you define those on the receiving end as deserving it because they are immoral),
- even murder (if it will accomplish some “moral” end that they have personally defined).
Bottom line, it is possible to be moral without God if you make up your own morality. But it is impossible to call anything objectively moral.
On the other hand, objective morality does exist. It is an expression of God’s very character – which He has revealed to us in the Bible. That’s just the way things are.
Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books entitled The Truth Mirage, Rules for Christians Radicals, Liberalism vs. Conservatism, and his latest book Shattering the Truth Mirage and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.
You may also contact Freddy at Leadership Speakers Bureau to schedule him for speaking or leadership engagements.
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