Monday, 22 June 2009

Can one be good with God?

Can one be good with god?

First my use here of this question is not to encourage or presume prejudice and bigotry against certain theists. Still it is a legitimate question to ask.

One answer is trivially yes but only in spite of god not because of god. That is people read in what they want and so they could read in a decent set of moral values or anything else and claim it came from god. One issue is that this could be "anything else". They could just as easily get a supposed independent confirmation of their prejudices.

The real issue is what is the answer if people try to do it because of god. This is not over whether a god exists nor whether they have the right conception of such a god but rather that it appears to directly conflict with the evidence-based empirical based approach any other remotely plausible moral theory. Has anyone ever been moral because of god?

There are quite a few Christians I have come across, more online than face to face, who argue that is their Christian beliefs that have saved them. Prior to getting this religion they were "sinners" - usually addicts or prostitutes and criminals or some equivalent combination. I certainly would not want to disavow them of their beliefs, if this led them to return to their old ways, which would not help them nor anyone else. Still what Christianity serves here is a useful fiction that enables some to be better people than would have been otherwise. However there are many belief systems that could do this and not all require a god belief. It could just as easily happen with other non-theistic religions such as Advaita, Zen, Taoism or Buddhism. It does not have to be a religion it could be Humanism for example.

Such useful fictions work based on their prior life experiences including propaganda and indoctrination - whether it succeeded in the past or failed. Consequently different people will respond to different useful fictions. So it is not surprising that many have found solace in Christianity since it has such a dominant effect on the upbringing of many children - even if it fails to take hold when they were younger.

The real issue here is to what extent they were mis-educated morally when they were younger as a result of thinking that religion and morality are necessarily related - a fiction and fallacy promoted by many religions. Surely to the degree that this is pervasive in one's upbringing, this contributes to a misunderstanding of what it is to be moral, it supports a lack of moral education, - quite the opposite of many Christina claim's to provide a moral education. It is a deceit, making people think they cannot be moral without the crutch of the church. This serves to produces moral cripples. How many of those who fell on hard times and were "saved" were the product of such miseducation in the first place?

I can only only speculate on such relations but this is certainly supported by the numerous correlation studies that objectively show the degree of religiosity is correlated with social ills. Could it be that a causative factor in this relation is due to the moral miseducation and the attempt by popular strands of Christianity to produce moral cripples, who when not reliant on the crutch of the church, mistakenly think anything goes and eventually suffer the consequences?

So, yes, some people have become moral - better members of a civilised and shared society because of their god beliefs but not because of god per se. However would society not be better off if people had better moral beliefs to start with, then they would have needed to resort to mistaken god beliefs to sort themselves out nor indeed find out that it was partly those mistaken god beleifs that helped them get into trouble in the first place?

Once one explores the question of "can one be good with God" without prejudgement, one realises the problem in asking "can one be good without God". Both are misleading questions. The one I asked here going to negate the effect of asking the more popular variant. The proper question is more simply "can one be good?" - what is required in general. History and philosophy has more than amply demonstrated that belief in a god, or not, is not required. As long as enough people think that asking "can one be good without god" is a legitimate question (ignoring the prejudice often behind such a question), surely one has to ask is "that religion the disease it is trying to cure"?


Ron C. de Weijze said...

Suppose God presents Himself through man and directs his actions, if man will let Him. Then God is one, although one isn't God. We should never underestimate the power of our imagination, for it is not the imagination that counts, but the power behind it. So one can be good with God, knowing His spiritual energy is let in from wherever. Surely, this could be any other kind of energy as well. The hardliner atheist or anti-theist might even say it is just a matter of answering oneself or one's higher morals. However, equally true is the idea that all of humanity worked and built all there is for humans, from that same Source. Then the question is irrelevant whether one is good with that being the Source or the Object.

faithlessgod said...

Soorr much of what you say does not make sense.

1.What is this "power" behind imagination?

2.How do you know this "spiritual" "energy" is god? That is what dis-confirming evidence could there be that would convince you this was not god?

3. How do you know this is not an over-active imagination? or "any other kind of energy"

4. Energy means the capacity to do work. However you seem to be suing this term differently. What do you mean by "energy"?

5. Why should the same "source" be anything to wiht god?

6. There is no evidence for the Object either.

Finally none of this really addresses the question trying to rendering irrelevant the question "can one be good without god" by the antithesis "can one be good with god". You agree the question is irrelevant so you agree with the question "how can one be good" and that if god cannot be shown to help, it should be dropped?

Ron C. de Weijze said...


1. I have some ideas about what it might be but the main thing is that it is there, that it produced the imagination, the figment or the, perhaps true, intuition.

2. I don't know but evidence directs me that way. Independent confirmation from others who arrived at the same conclusion, convince me even more.

3. Sure it may be be something else, but now that I suspect that, I will do all that I can to rule out that possibility. Yet of course I can never be sure. But that's life.

4. Energy is what materializes when it loses its heat. Thus the universe, the stars, planets and us, came into existence. And so do our fabulations, intended to guide us on our way.

5. Source and object are the strongholds of philosophy and theology. E.g. Faith and Reason, Karol Józef Wojtyła, 1998.

6. The object is the goal we reach for, or the best possible closure for our lives, when it has to come to an end, to give us comfort, hopefully.

I agree that the replacing question is not at all bad. However, I believe good is another way of saying, 'god'.

faithlessgod said...

1. Surely imagination is a product of the brain, dependent upon one's history of experiences. It serves as the basis of us reasoning about the future?

2. Surely such evidence is divergent not convergent. Different cultural biases lead to different conclusion not the same ones?

3. The divergence indicates it does not point to a coherent or consistent reality?

4. No that is not energy in physics, you appear to be referring now to entropy, as Ooe source of entropy is
due to heat? Our "fabulations" consume energy like anything else however that is not what you appeared to be implying.

5. Yes but you capitalised them in a special way. Surely they are not strongholds as such, they are semantic terms, it is what they refer to that is important.

6. All our goals are determined/specified by our desires. A desire for comfort is one possible guide for some of these desire but not all. A desire for truth can clash with a desire for comfort. Do not sacrifice truth on the altar of comfort.

If god is another way of saying god, why bother? We want to make things clearer rather than obfuscate the issue, so this does not help. Plus god is some kind of entity or being or force, whereas good is nothing like that at all so the identity however loose cannot succeed?

Ron C. de Weijze said...


Thanks for your response. Here is another round.

1. Sure.
2. It is divergent within convergence. Differentiation after integration, analysis after synthesis.
3. Multiple perspectives coordinate in an object orientation.
4. I am a Bergsonian. This is what won him the Nobel prize. He integrated Darwin's nihilism with Christianity's absolutism.
5. I consider them to be not only semantic strongholds but pragmatical ones as well. You and me can agree when either one of us drives this discussion forward. In doing so, we match our intuitions with reality. Sensing what we know (my definition of intuition) and knowing what we sense (my definition of reality)thus indirectly match our sensing and knowing, keeping us from depersonalization, derealization and perhaps worse, groupsism.
6. Popper's Objective Truth is what brings us together by conjecture and refutation (falsification). There is hardly any comfort in that in our age of political correctness.

Synthesis is not obfuscating, when carried out properly. Organisms have evolved to integrate and form larger organisms. There may be an organism that evolved 15 bn years instead of our 5, knowing and directing ALL about us.

faithlessgod said...

Sorry I am not sure what you are attempting here. I am not interested in philosophy per se only inasmuch as it sets constraints on evidential reasoning. The question is "how to be good" and god is not necessary for it as has been known for over 2300 years if not longer.

You can play with definitions of god etc. but that is just semantics. It is perverse for multiple reasons to believe that a Christian god or equivalent could possibly be the basis for morality. And that was my target here.

Ron C. de Weijze said...

I am testing my theories, Faithlessgod, and I assumed you were doing the same. See how they hold when other readings are given to explain and understand the facts. Don't you like critical rationalism or commonsense realism?

faithlessgod said...


I am glad you are testing your theories and that you are testing them here. However it is unclear how this relates to this post.

How do your theories and comments relate to the argument of my post which led to the conclusions such as (to quote myself):

"History and philosophy has more than amply demonstrated that belief in a god, or not, is not required. As long as enough people think that asking "can one be good without god" is a legitimate question (ignoring the prejudice often behind such a question), surely one has to ask is "that religion is the disease it is trying to cure"?"

Ron C. de Weijze said...

I related primarily to your question, FG, by answering 'yes'. In my mind, the human endeavor on this planet has been, all-in-all, one of triumpf. Mainly by (self) fulfilling prophecies that intellect had produced, once it had evolved out of somnambulism. It is this attitude that we inherited, not with all the exact punctuations and not in the same shape and form but in many, perhaps even anti-theism. So there.