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Old 02-07-2005, 11:06 PM   #1
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Can We Be Good Without God?

This is the title of a book I read a few years back. I heard the author on a radio talk show and realized that many of his views on life were similar to my own.

There is a section in the book discussing non-theist core principles.

1. The human species has evolved as - and remains as- part of nature.

2. Human consiciousness is a function of the activity of the human brain.

3. Human beings require (to some extent) a system of belief in order to function.

4. Humanists believe that in all its forms the supernatural is a myth.

5. The human species is capable of achieving a great deal using its resources of collaboration and creativity. The results of these endeavours often benefit our species and planet, but we are also capable of using the same abilities in acts of destruction and cruelty.

6. Humanists do not believe that the rules of human conduct have been set or preordained by any deity or external intelligence.

7. Individuals who are aware of the consequences of their actions on other individuals, on the community and on the species are likely to behave in a more considerate, more reasonable and more ethical way.

8. Humanists believe that equality of opportunity is a fundamental principle on which humankind can base its behaviour.

9. Life on earth is relatively fragile and requires care and attention to continue.

10 Humankind's destiny is not predetermined- much of it lies in our own control.

There is also a suggestion: if you have children, do your best to like them.

Just an alternative viewpoint.

Peace out.
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Old 02-07-2005, 11:32 PM   #2
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Well, this is not something I have said very often in FYM - I agree. Well said
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Old 02-08-2005, 12:18 AM   #3
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I have maintained that for a good long while.
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Old 02-08-2005, 03:54 AM   #4
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Can we be good without God?

Of course we can.
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Old 02-08-2005, 04:17 AM   #5
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Can we be bad without Satan?
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Old 02-08-2005, 06:18 AM   #6
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Most certainly.
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Old 02-08-2005, 06:40 AM   #7
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secular rationality creates ethics, which are much better than morals.

an ethical person would never crash airplanes into buildlings, or strap bombs to his chest.

a moral person *might* be capable of such acts, since only the fear of/faith in God could drive a human being to suppress his/her survival instinct and destroy himself.
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Old 02-08-2005, 07:25 AM   #8
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Whose God? The Christian God and it's morals is decidely different than the Muslim god and their morals.

And which kind of atheist are your referring to? It would be hard to remove the atheist from the culture that informs him. An atheist in communist China would certainly have a different ethical cast than say a European atheist or a American atheist.

True, even Christians differ on some moral principles but at least there is a rule book which is supposed to help mediate.

Although many atheists are indistinguishable from Christians in their morals and ethics, do you believe that the world would be a better place if there were no religion? Would you want the United States to be 300 million atheists with their moral code determined by their secular rationality? Who then decides what is right and wrong?

Could you imagine the destruction wrought by legions following the philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche, wait, that happened in Nazi Germany. I believe that Communism is ostensibly a godless political philosophy as well... Over a hundred million died because of that experiment as well.

Governments who have derived their rule of law based on Judeo-Christian principles have been far more successful than their counterparts of the time. And have treated their citizens better.

And I would argue that the fall of the Roman Empire, the decline of Europe and (eventually) the decline of America are tied to the distance that the general populous is from God.

The question was asked whether we need God to be good, and I don't think you can ask that question divorced of a 20,000 foot view of it. Individually, any one person can be good, but the questions lacks teeth without asking if people tend to be better or not without God. I would say no.

I would also ask the question, what is good? I bet few of you here think they are bad, and if they do, why do they think they are bad? And then what is the solution?
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Old 02-08-2005, 07:50 AM   #9
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Secular humanism and similar values from the Enlightenment are what founded America, not Christianity. Communism and modernism/fascism were failures, yes, but hell...secular humanism even gave rise to the theories of capitalism.

Religion, as a whole, is deathly afraid of change, and it will kill to keep things the same. You can blame Nazi Germany on Nietzche, but anti-Semitism was part of Europe for centuries, and Jews were ghettoed and killed in Europe far before WWII by bigoted Christians, who would quote the New Testament to justify their anti-Semitism. You can't blame that on Nietzche. In fact, Jews felt more comfortable in the "Muslim" Ottoman Empire than they did in "Christian Europe."

And, sure, you can point at communism and call it a failure, because it is. But for every failed "godless" communist regime, you can count at least two oppressive theocracies in history.

As for the fall of the Roman Empire? You can't blame that on "distance from God," because the empire converted to Christianity from A.D. 313. Coincidentally, the same emperor that converted the Roman Empire to Christianity is the same emperor that moved the capital from Rome to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), thus, essentially, dividing the Empire into two. I guess, with similar specious reasoning, I could say that Christianity caused the fall of the Roman Empire.

The decline of Europe? Europe's "decline" is the result of America's military and economic supremacy following WWII. Europe started the 20th century with antiquated monarchies, all of which were "Christian." They the culminated in the two world wars, both waged by nations that claimed to be "Christian," with an *allied* Soviet Union thrown in for good measure.

On the contrary, "Judeo-Christian" governments have been some of the most oppressive in history, because it's theology is grossly intolerant of competing viewpoints. Religion begets autocracy, it seems, and the Catholic Church is credited for starting modern capital punishment with all the medieval torture devices they used during the Inquisition. Did you know they used to saw living people in half upside down?

If it weren't for secular humanism, capitalism and democracy wouldn't exist, and we would most likely be little different from the Middle East dictatorships that execute you for breaking "moral laws."

Overall, I see the institution of religion as the problem, not the solution. If America is in decline, it's because of the religious zealots that are consistently trying to erode the secular humanist values that have successfully preserved minority rights for nearly 230 years.

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Old 02-08-2005, 08:00 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by starsforu2


And I would argue that the fall of the Roman Empire, the decline of Europe and (eventually) the decline of America are tied to the distance that the general populous is from God.
really? i'd love to see you make this argument.
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Old 02-08-2005, 08:34 AM   #11
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I would say God used the Roman Empire to spread his word.
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Old 02-08-2005, 09:06 AM   #12
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I would separate Catholicism from the Christian church post-reformation. Sorry, I should have been more specific on that one. I'm gonna get killed from both sides on this one, but I believe that when Catholicism became more a function of government than a church and as it began to create it's own laws separate from the teachings of the bible it collapsed under it's own hubris. And when I refer to Europe, I should have mentioned England specifically, because England was predominately protestant and their empire was vast.

*shite* Note to self. Must make short punchy statements than actually try to introduce a whole philosophical battleground *

Ok, I got into this and knew that it was going to waste more time than I had...

Quote:
On the contrary, "Judeo-Christian" governments have been some of the most oppressive in history, because it's theology is grossly intolerant of competing viewpoints. Religion begets autocracy, it seems, and the Catholic Church is credited for starting modern capital punishment with all the medieval torture devices they used during the Inquisition. Did you know they used to saw living people in half upside down?
Barbaric to be sure and far away from the bible's teaching in my estimation, it sounds much more like Sadaam's torture. The inquisition, the Crusades all done by the Catholics which I believe has distanced itself away from the bible over time with their belief that what the Pope says is canonized. Whereas the bible states that no one is to add or subtract from it's text. I also believe that as the Catholic leadership strayed further from the bible, by adding extra-biblical instructions or outright ignoring the teachings, the Roman Empire's decadence caught up to it.

As the protestant reformation took hold, England's Empire grew with it. (I'll concede that I don't know why England's empire shrunk. But I can say that church membership is much lower than in the US at this time and they are much more secular than the US)

The puritans and other protestant sects inhabited and eventually formed our government (along with good folks like Thomas Jefferson) and the fruit of is apparent. France was awash with enlightenment thought and now their swimming in their own morass largely divorced of Christian principles in favor of anything goes secularism.

Doing a comparison of North and South America reveals a fault-line where North America is largely protestant and South America is largely Catholic. For what that's worth.

I should also clarify that I don't desire America or any other country to be a theocracy. I said in my original post that as the PEOPLE moved away from God, bad things happened. But since we have a government by the people and for the people, it makes sense that it's going to reflect the beliefs of the people. And if you think this country is repressive than I wonder which secular nation offers the freedom you seek.

Quote:
Overall, I see the institution of religion as the problem, not the solution. If America is in decline, it's because of the religious zealots that are consistently trying to erode the secular humanist values that have successfully preserved minority rights for nearly 230 years.
It was largely Christians who dissolved the slave trade, not elites who benefited from the labor of negroes.

It's Christians who support property rights, against environmenalist zealots who believe that the rights of the many trump the rights of the few.

And please don't get indignant about a little opression of ideas compared to the wholesale slaughter of millions of people.

Protestant Christianity taken to it's infinite end doesn't compare to when you've taken Secularism to it's infinite end which has resulted in far more deaths. Starting with Abortion and ending in Euthanasia. They are both lives, but secular humanist thought doesn't count them as important enough to preserve.

If you believe that a fetus is a life then secular practice has led to 20 million deaths in the last 30 years right here in the US. Oh and puncturing a skull and sucking the brain out it is right up there with cutting a man in half. They both result in death.

Have Protestant Christians participated in evil, oh yeah, we still have free choice or may be Christians in name only, but as a movement it hasn't sought to wipe out entire peoples.

And anti-semitism is currently advocated most by Arab nations and the left. It's the Evangelical Community who have most supported Israel from neighbors who want to destroy it. And Israel is a far more prosperous nation than the one's around it.

Um, I have to get back to work now. I opened up way too large of a can....

This is why I hate FYM, views so disparate as to not even be helpful to debate... and now I'm going to get creamed by the Catholics too

Hey anybody totally dig the new U2 album?, hehe
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Old 02-08-2005, 09:40 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by starsforu2
I would separate Catholicism from the Christian church post-reformation. Sorry, I should have been more specific on that one. I'm gonna get killed from both sides on this one, but I believe that when Catholicism became more a function of government than a church and as it began to create it's own laws separate from the teachings of the bible it collapsed under it's own hubris. And when I refer to Europe, I should have mentioned England specifically, because England was predominately protestant and their empire was vast.
Sorry. That excuse doesn't work. Catholicism is "Judeo-Christian," and I would say that any religion, when given that much power, will do the exact same thing as Catholicism. I'm keeping my eye on the Christian Coalition.

And you can't just single out England as an example. No, you have to look at all of Europe.

Quote:
As the protestant reformation took hold, England's Empire grew with it. (I'll concede that I don't know why England's empire shrunk. But I can say that church membership is much lower than in the US at this time and they are much more secular than the US)

The puritans and other protestant sects inhabited and eventually formed our government (along with good folks like Thomas Jefferson) and the fruit of is apparent. France was awash with enlightenment thought and now their swimming in their own morass largely divorced of Christian principles in favor of anything goes secularism.
At the time of the American revolution, the Puritans were a hated group. Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston in the early 1700s, but left it for Philadelphia, because he couldn't stand their conservatism. On the contrary, both the American and French Revolutions were swimming in secular humanist thought, which came from England, of all places.

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I should also clarify that I don't desire America or any other country to be a theocracy. I said in my original post that as the PEOPLE moved away from God, bad things happened. But since we have a government by the people and for the people, it makes sense that it's going to reflect the beliefs of the people. And if you think this country is repressive than I wonder which secular nation offers the freedom you seek.
America has been, and, at this writing, is still a secular nation. Of course, nothing says that Bush's Religious Right pandering won't try and bring on a theocracy just to win elections.

And, do tell, what "bad things" have happened? I want specifics. Because the thing is, "bad things" happen on a regular basis to "Christian countries." When tornadoes and hurricanes and floods pummel the Bible Belt, should I take that as a sign that God is angry with their morality? Because the "Blue States" here seem to be relatively free of natural disasters, minus California. So maybe, by that logic, I could argue that God is angry with the Bible Belt.

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It was largely Christians who dissolved the slave trade, not elites who benefited from the labor of negroes.
The South quoted from the Old Testament to support slavery, and following the Civil War, it isn't as if the Bible Belt was welcoming blacks with open arms. No, they encouraged segregation for 100 years afterwards.

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It's Christians who support property rights, against environmenalist zealots who believe that the rights of the many trump the rights of the few.
Fine. I'm going to petition my Congressmen to rapidly increase oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, and if there's a massive oil spill that washes up on the Deep South, then so be it. Coastal Louisiana is already sinking from all the oil drilling, and they want $14 billion from the federal government to deal with it.

And I laugh and laugh at the idea of Christians being the champions of minority rights. Isn't this the same group trying to ban gay marriage? In other words, don't they believe that the rights of the many trump the rights of the few?

Quote:
Protestant Christianity taken to it's infinite end doesn't compare to when you've taken Secularism to it's infinite end which has resulted in far more deaths. Starting with Abortion and ending in Euthanasia. They are both lives, but secular humanist thought doesn't count them as important enough to preserve.
Forget abortion and euthanasia. Are you willing to pay more taxes to promote a truly "pro-life" society? That means universal health care. That means universal and affordable access to education--not burdening people with mortgage-sized student loans. And what about adoption? We're worried about saving millions of aborted fetuses, when we have millions of unadopted children.

Quote:
If you believe that a fetus is a life then secular practice has led to 20 million deaths in the last 30 years right here in the US. Oh and puncturing a skull and sucking the brain out it is right up there with cutting a man in half. They both result in death.
And so does hooking up a convicted felon to an electric chair. Or are they no longer human?

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Have Protestant Christians participated in evil, oh yeah, we still have free choice or may be Christians in name only, but as a movement it hasn't sought to wipe out entire peoples.
You forget the American Indians. And Nazi Germany was Protestant.

Quote:
And anti-semitism is currently advocated most by Arab nations and the left. It's the Evangelical Community who have most supported Israel from neighbors who want to destroy it. And Israel is a far more prosperous nation than the one's around it.
Jerry Falwell's support for Israel is based on his view of the apocalypse, where Israel and the Palestinians are embroiled in a war ("Armageddon"). In his words, at the end, 2/3 of Jews will die and 1/3 will convert to Christianity. Hence, no more Jews. That's quite blatantly anti-Semitic.

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Old 02-08-2005, 09:59 AM   #14
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The title of the book "Can We Be Good Without God?" does not specifically mean the Christian God. Upon reading the book, the author refers to the concepts of the higher power,supreme being which tells people how to live their lives.

7. Individuals who are aware of the consequences of their actions on other individuals, on the community and on the species are likely to behave in a more considerate, more reasonable and more ethical way.

This principle if followed by a person would not result in such atrocities of the past referred to other postings. Obviously, the countries or individuals that have been involved in secular practices which lead to deaths are not following the above principle. The Soviet Union for example may have been a secular nation but they were not guided by the above principles.

This principle does seem similar to the Golden Rule "treat others as you would have them treat you". The author notes an important difference in the two. He notes that in the Golden Rule, you project your own expectations on the other person. Using consideration of consequences then you will try to anticipate the resulting effect on the other person (regardless of how you would feel if it was you) Our past experiences shape the way we view behaviours. SOMETIMES, not all the time, it can be used to justify the way we treat others because we would expect to be treated the same way if we were on the receiving end.
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Old 02-08-2005, 10:28 AM   #15
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"True, even Christians differ on some moral principles but at least there is a rule book which is supposed to help mediate."

I don't think you need a rule book to meditate, if you need to meditate at all.

Principles 8 and 9 would guide an individual to not have the views of a Friedrich Nietzche.

"The question was asked whether we need God to be good, and I don't think you can ask that question divorced of a 20,000 foot view of it. Individually, any one person can be good, but the questions lacks teeth without asking if people tend to be better or not without God. I would say no.

I would also ask the question, what is good? I bet few of you here think they are bad, and if they do, why do they think they are bad? And then what is the solution? "

The question is not whether we need God to be good but can we be good without God? It is not an attack on religion, it just asking whether non-theists can be good people without being guided by a religious doctrine. The reason this is asked is that many people who are part of organized religion don't understand or believe a person can be "good" without a god. They question what motivates a person not to be evil or immoral if they don't have the word of God or some future reward in the afterlife to cause them to be a good person. This is the question that the author attempts to answer. The entire book examines this issue to answer this question. It does not concern itself with whether "one is better with or without God" as that is a divisive issue which I do not wish to discuss.

Yes, the definition of "good" is higly subjective. Their is no real agreed definition. For me being "good" would be not committing actions which hurt others. Everyone has their own concept of "good"

The name of the book is Can We Be Good Without God? Behaviour, Belonging and the Need to Believe by Dr. Robert Buckman. if anyone is interested in reading it.
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