Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, January 15, 2007

Do We Need God in Order to be Good?

This question has been asked and answered by many people, of whom, some are probably a bit brighter than I am. Nevertheless, it is a question that I must ask and answer for myself, for my own benefit and understanding. If you find the question to be important, perhaps this article will benefit you also. That, at least, is my hope.

Let me begin by letting you know that I was a preacher for many years and so am quite familiar with the Christian perspective, with which I shall begin. According to the New Testament, quoting Jesus himself, there is no one who is “good” except God (Mark 10:18). This theme is pervasive throughout the New Testament, wherein it is asserted that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Paul goes further, plainly averring that “they who are according to the flesh mind the things of flesh, but they who are according to the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). The Christian position therefore is as follows: Everyone is evil, and furthermore, the only way to be good is to be a Christian in whom dwells the Holy Spirit. That is the New Testament position on the question, “Do we need God to be good?” It answers decisively, Yes.

But is it possible to test this claim? If it is true, should there be observable evidence to confirm it? And if the claim is false, should there be evidence of that, also? I would think so. After all, the claim has to do with both thoughts and actions, and actions are observable. Even thoughts become manifest in many cases. But looking for this evidence is not as simple as you might suppose. For example, you might imagine that a simple statistical survey would provide ample data from which to judge. You might find that the incidence of marital infidelity, or any other form of misbehavior (what is commonly accepted as such) among the self-described Christian community is the same as that among the non-religious community. But the Christian would respond by saying that the fact that infidelity occurred is proof that the individual in question was not a true Christian in the first place. This argument guarantees that the Christian perspective must prevail; however, as a true test, it fails to convince. We must ask ourselves if we would trust a drug that was tested according to similar criteria. Let us say that, of 100 individuals who are given either drug A or drug B, 50 die. But rather than ask who took which, the makers of drug A assert that all of those who died must have taken drug B, because drug A is completely harmless. That would not be a legitimate test, would it?

We might agree that the self-proclaimed Christian group might contain some who are not telling the truth, but shouldn’t we expect that there would be more true Christians in that group than in the group that claims to be non-Christian? Of course. And so there should be an observable difference in the incidence of what is accepted by a society as being wrong or immoral among the non-Christian group, if the claim is true. If we therefore look at things like adultery, addiction to pornography, deceit, theft, laziness, domestic abuse, et cetera, we should see a very distinct difference between our two groups.

(Check back for more tomorrow!)

If you've found this article helpful, please consider making a donation. The Price of Rice! could use your support. Thanks!