Can Atheists be Good People?

A very common question that is asked by skeptics is “Do you think that all atheists are bad people?”. My answer to this is simple. No. However, if God does not exist, then no atheist has ever done anything good either. In fact, no-one has ever done anything “good”. Let me explain:


If I were to ask you on your view of the holocaust I am positive that you would consider it wrong. 


Okay… what about if you were a soldier in Nazi Germany, would you still think that the holocaust is wrong? Fine, What if Nazi Germany had won the war, killed all opposition and had re-written history?


Most people will agree that no matter how I manipulate that question, the holocaust was OBJECTIVELY wrong - and this is where the moral argument comes into play. When you say something is wrong or right it is always in comparison to a standard. For some, that standard might be a role model, for others it could be themselves! Regardless of what your standard is, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to have objective moral standards if everyone based it on different things. Certainly, many of the Nazi soldiers did not believe they were doing wrong because their standard of right and wrong was based on that which was dictated by the regime - does this mean that it was not wrong? Of course not! 


This same argument can be flipped and reflected onto whether something is good or right and in the end, it boils down to the measuring scale we are using. If objective morals exist, God must exist. God is the standard upon which all deeds and actions are measured.


The Scottish philosopher W.R Sorely summarised the moral argument into three points:

1. If morality is objective and absolute, God must exist. 

2. Morality is objective and absolute. 

3. Therefore, God must exist.


Every time we recognise that someone did something wrong, every time we feel like something is unjust and every time we commend someone for dong something good, we are affirming the existence of objective moral truth. C.S. Lewis profoundly explains this in saying "conscience reveals to us a moral law whose source cannot be found in the natural world, thus pointing to a supernatural Lawgiver”. The conscience we have is proof that God designed each and everyone one of us with a moral code that is intertwined within our very being. 


So, I come back to the original question. Can atheists be good people? Yes. Without a doubt, Yes. But… without a God, it would be impossible to prove that good exists in the first place.


 "conscience reveals to us a moral law whose source cannot be found in the natural world, thus pointing to a supernatural Lawgiver”



References:

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

Comments

  1. Yes, atheists have biases. But let's take a look at Christian biases:

    Would any Christian take seriously the research of a Hindu scholar who claims to be objective regarding the historicity of Hindu miracles purportedly performed by an ancient Hindu prophet and miracle worker, if that same scholar also professes that he perceives the presence of that very Hindu prophet living within him?

    So why should anyone take seriously the scholarship of evangelical Christian scholars who claim that their research is objective regarding the alleged miracle of Jesus of Nazareth—his bodily resurrection—while at the same time claiming that they perceive the presence of Jesus living within them?

    It may be true that all historical scholars have biases, but the overwhelming majority do not claim that they perceive the presence of a ghost (spirit) living somewhere in their bodies who gives them supernatural guidance and wisdom.

    Evangelical scholars should be honest: Admit that they perceive Jesus living somewhere within them and admit that this perception completely disqualifies their scholarship regarding the alleged historicity of Jesus’ bodily resurrection.

    Dear evangelical Christian: Is that "presence" which you perceive within you really Jesus...or just YOU...your internal monologue? Feelings and perceptions are notoriously unreliable indicators of truth.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Gary,
      Firstly, I would like to re-iterate that this article was intended to look at the need for moral objective truth, regardless of where that source comes from.

      I do believe that many Christians would indeed seriously listen to scholars of other religions, but the first problem is that no other religion provides the objective historicity that you describe. Additionally, a big point of difference between Christians and atheists is our perception of the world. Christians do not believe in an exclusively physical world, and therefore our faith in the Holy Spirit is both logical and reasonable.

      God does not exist within the limits of space, time and matter (otherwise He would not be God) and therefore we have no problems believing that He can exist within us. God created each of us with the ability to have relationships, and He is able to have a relationship with us too! And the 'feelings' that you describe are not physical or tangible or even explainable, but you are absolutely right that feelings are not an indicator of truth - the Bible outlines this by saying, "the heart is deceitful above all things".

      Gary, at the end of the day, of course we all have our own biases, but please don't let the bias of Christians stop you from investigating and finding the truth.

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    2. Thanks for the response.

      Why do you believe that faith in the existence of a Holy Spirit is "both logical and reasonable"?

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    3. Let me give you an example: If I told you that the spirit of my deceased grandfather lives within me, giving me secret insight, wisdom, peace, and comfort---would you consider my belief logical and reasonable?

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    4. No problems, happy to have an open discussion.

      For the sake of the explanation, let's assume that God does exist.

      The first thing that I would like to point out is that there is difference between a deceased person and God. As I mentioned earlier, God is not bound by time, space, matter or any other physical construct (or else He wouldn't be God). So the first thing to do is make a distinction between perceiving the presence of a passed relative, and the presence of God.If God exists and created us, it would be fair to assume that He has the ability to be in relationship with us.

      Gary, if God exists, would it really be that hard to believe that He could have a relationship with each and every one of us. He is omnipresent and, like I keep saying, is not limited to the physical world we see (because He created it).

      The question therefore should not be, if belief in the Holy Spirit is logical, but rather if God exists. Because if God exists, then belief in a personal relationship with an omniscient, omnipresent God is not illogical.

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    5. Hope this makes sense.
      There is a more in-depth article in the works, that should be published soon if you are interested too :)

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    6. Thank you for the explanation.

      I agree that if an omnipotent, all-knowing Creator exists, he (she, they or it) would by definition have the capability to do anything, including the ability to have a personal relationship with each and every human being. But just because that probability exists does not make your proposition (that a spirit DOES dwell within you and communicates with you) true.

      Let's take a look at your proposition above using critical thinking skills:

      "Because if God exists, then belief in a personal relationship with an omniscient, omnipresent God is not illogical."

      Let's do a substitution:

      "Because if God exists, then belief that he has given me, Gary, the the supernatural power to see through brick walls is not illogical."

      I'm sure you can see how illogical the second sentence is. Just because an omnipotent God exists does not in any way prove that I have supernatural eyesight. In kind, just because an omnipotent God exists in no way proves that you have his spirit living inside you. What objective evidence do you have for this supernatural belief?

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    7. Your subsitution doesn't really make sense. Omniscient and omnipresent by defintion means that God is everywhere at the same time, hence making His presence a logical by-product of His Omniscience. It wouldn't make sense to say that because God is omniscient "I can see through walls", or "I can fly" etc, however it would make sense to say that because God is omniscient His presence is everywhere at once (by virtue of the definition of Omniscience).

      Admittedly, there is not much extrabiblical objective evidence for this as the presence of God is primarily experiential and therefore is difficult to objectively prove, however if you believe in the God of the Bible, you there is plenty of biblical evidence for the Holy Spirit.

      Nonetheless, I don't see why this matters. From your first argument about the Holy Spirit, I don't see how it disproves the need for God in any way, shape or form. Whether the Holy Spirit exists or not, shouldn't be a factor in to whether God exists (there are many Christians who do not believe in the Holy Spirit, but this does not stop them from beleiving in God). Even if Christians have got it all wrong about the Holy Spirit (or even God), why should that mean that a God doesn't exist? Your skepticism on the Christian belief in the Holy Spirit does not in any way invalidate the moral argument outlined in the article above.

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    8. I would recommend you have a look at some resources on the existence of God and then progress to looking at the nitty gritties of Christianity. The role of the Holy Spirit is a point of some disagreement within Christian circles itself.
      Happy to put you across to more resources on God's existence if you would like, more content should be up on this site too in the coming months. I know where your'e coming from, but if you look around you with an open heart and mind, and truly seek the truth, you will find it.

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  2. Good morning. I left a couple of comments last evening but they seem to have disappeared.

    Let me ask you this: Even if there were a mountain of evidence for the existence of a Creator, that does not prove that a first century Jewish peasant is that Creator. If they are honest, evangelical Christians believe that Jesus is the Creator due to primarily and overwhelmingly because of their subjective feelings and perceptions that he lives in their "heart". That is not logical or rational, my friend. There is zero objective evidence for this belief.

    Morality may originate from a Creator, but your belief is that morality originates from Jesus of Nazareth. You need to demonstrate that you have good evidence for your belief that Jesus of Nazareth is that Creator, or your entire belief system, including your views on morality, fails.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Gary, you are right. This article was not intended to look at the evidence for the Christain faith, it was intended to look at the need for a God in the first place. Once we establish the need for God, then we can start looking at why the God of the Bible is True.

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