# No God? Why good?

1. May 9, 2003

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
As a few of you might have noticed, I attempt to argue for beliefs beyond only those justified by science. In fact, I think that it can be wrong to challenge a person’s belief system since none can be defended. Of course, I only came to this conclusion after years of heated arguments with friends, relatives, eventually my wife, passers by, the guy at the donut shop...you get the idea. But with that said, I have always wondered all of you non-believers - since when a non-believer I encountered this paradox - what justifies doing good, and what is good...why bother? It seems to me that all arguments for anything except self-serving selfish behavior quickly fail. In turn, this kind of behavior has negative effects on society. Of course, if the world effectively ends with my death what do I care?

Last edited: May 9, 2003
2. May 9, 2003

### heusdens

You imply that in order for human behaviour to be less self-serving and ego-centric, one needs a belief in God. This is of course not true, when one adapts to materialism, you can not escape the conclusion that the world will continue to exist after your death.
Only your mind has passed away.
This kind of thinking urges us to be both concerned about our own lives (we have only finite time to live) and to be concerned about the world in total, and other human beings especially. Cause they will still be living in the world, which also you contributed to.

3. May 9, 2003

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
I really want to get into this but I have to go to bed...and get a few hours of sleep. So for now I will only say that this was a genuine paradox for me at one time. My beliefs changed so the paradox became moot...as far as personal significance. But I still find the question interesting. Why should I adopt some philosophy that requires any more personal sacrifice than I absolutely must tolerate in order to remain free and to get the things that I want? For me, all such motivations seemed rooted in spiritual rather than logical interests...perhaps what many would argue is my latent Catholic guilt complex.

4. May 9, 2003

### FZ+

I see it as the fact that what is considered good in the eyes of society, is co-incidentally generally good for you. Ie, being good is in your own interests, as a society based on what we consider pure self-interest is inevitably unstable, liable to collapse with extreme problems for all it's members. Man is undeniably a social animal, and we benefit more from this society, than we would gain from betraying it's values.
Another way is see it is that life is a journey. But what is important about this journey is not the monotony of the destination, but what you pass through on the way. The path of "good" can be considered to be that which brings both directly and indirectly maximum happiness, and genetic satisfaction.
Finally, a cynical argument is that this is all the result of brainwashing - society works by brainwashing it's members, implanting a purely arbitary moral code into their minds. This is the glue that hold civilisation together, and it's persistence after such a long time is reason for it's influence.

5. May 9, 2003

Ivan Seeking,
It seems to me that all arguments for anything except self-serving selfish behavior quickly fail. In turn, this kind of behavior has negative effects on society. Of course, if the world effectively ends with my death what do I care?

And;
Why should I adopt some philosophy that requires any more personal sacrifice than I absolutely must tolerate in order to remain free and to get the things that I want? For me, all such motivations seemed rooted in spiritual rather than logical interests...

“Atheists would teach men to be moral now, not because God offers as an inducement reward by and by, but because in the virtuous act itself immediate good is insured to the doer and the circle surrounding him.” - Charles Bradlaugh, 1864, /A plea for atheism/

By treating others with kindness you encourage others to treat you well too. I see nothing wrong with a bit of selfishness, especially when it brings positive benefits to all. I don’t really see how spiritual matters even apply that much. It seems simple enough that both believers and non-believers can easily recognize that if you injure someone you invite retribution…
I knew a little Catholic girl (about 16 years old) who told me that what she liked about Catholicism was that “it’s easy”. She explained what she meant was she could pretty much do whatever she wanted, then go confess it and be forgiven. So which camp is really more selfish, I would ask; the religionist pawning off responsibility and being forgiven for transgressions against their fellow man by some god (that may not even exist), or the atheist who recognizes his/her self-worth and thus understands that if he, a fluke of nature, has any worth at all then so must his fellow man, and treats others accordingly.

"For my money, I'll bet on reason and humanistic kindness. Even if I am wrong I will have enjoyed my life, the existence of which is under little dispute." -Dan Barker

6. May 9, 2003

### wuliheron

The assumption in the west is that nature is a beast, a mean and selfish ill tempered beast at that. Our natural instincts and predilections are all suspect from this point of view and only our transcendent will power can save us from ourselves. What rubbish, what a negative self-image to walk around with.

Nature

Nature is not kind;
It treats all things impartially.
The Sage is not kind,
And treats everything and everyone impartially.
The Way is like a bellows,
Empty; yet never ceasing its supply.
The more it moves, the more it yields;
So the sage draws upon experience
And their happiness cannot be exhausted.

Kindness as an abstraction can be just as mean and destructive as anything. Out of "kindness" was born the concept of the White Man's Burden. Kindness is not something you find in a book or figure out after hours of deliberation, it either comes from your heart sponatneously or it is not real. It either begins with yourself, or it become a parody of the real thing.

7. May 9, 2003

Re: Re: No God? Why good?

Insightful point.

8. May 9, 2003

### Iacchus32

What is Good?

Truth is the vessel (form) and good is contained within (essence). Which is to say good can only coexist with truth, and in fact is the essence of truth.

Whereas where good and truth go hand in hand, evil and falsity go hand in hand as well ... meaning, the lie is used to justify the wrong.

9. May 10, 2003

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Hmmm. First I would say that yes, retribution can be a problem. But I can also tell you as a business man: Doing the right thing often involves personal sacrifice, and there is no reward other than being true to ones own principles. For me, although sometimes painful [costly, no sleep], I try to live according to values based mostly in my religious belief that "good" is not just an abstraction. If the essence of good - GOD - is real, then there are real reasons to do good. If you think that bad people don't profit, well, I've got some swampland for you...and guilt only comes with moral conviction. I see little guilt in business. In fact there's a favorite saying: Hey, it's not personal, it's just business...and then the unspoken part…sorry I just ruined your life...see ya!

I won't even get into the life of an inner-city ghetto laborer. The point here I guess is that for people who live desperate lives, abstractions carry little meaning. It is the belief in something real that gives comfort and causes change. Perhaps this is just a matter that my personal experience is not representative of the norm, but I have seen very little evidence that abstract [unreal] principles affect most people or their actions. [EDIT] This is why we invoke the name of God if we want to fight a war! It's not religion thats the problem, it's the power of belief...and the way that this belief is manipulated by the powers that be.

Next, I agree, original sin stinks. The man-beast picture is not a pretty one either. If you think that man is not also beast, then I suggest that you speak with some POWs from Vietnam, Japan, Korea, or the camps in Germany. What are you talking about?

I found that within me is an innate sense of good and right. You seem to argue that this comes from nature. To me it seems that only our philosophies cause humans to act well, that our nature can be that of beast. The speed at which Bosnians neighbors who had once had BarBQs together turn on each other with machine guns is just one piece of evidence that the veneer of society is thin indeed. If one only perceives his or her philosophy as an abstraction, something that only means something in one's own head, then I doubt that for most people it really means much. IMHO, most people are simply not that philosophical. I think people NEED to believe.

EDIT: Oh yes, the Catholic thing. You guys kill me. Now I am no longer Catholic but I was raised as such until my mid teens. The reference to confession lacks perspective. This was a child...a childs perspective. The process of confessing forces one to admit to his or her failings. The point is introspection. The forgiveness was always there. No philosophy is that simple....really! Why does everyone pick on the Catholics? They haven't started any wars lately.

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10. May 10, 2003

I disagree, building a good reputation by honoring commitments, even when it costs you your a, has proven a successful strategy for several businessmen I have known.
Morality, I believe, does not come from god.
This does not negate the fact that an honest man can also profit.
Back to the flaw of the origin of morality.
There is nothing inherently ‘good’ in business. Business is forced to ‘do good’ by catering to the whims of the buying public. Those that satisfy demands may prosper, while those that misjudge the market might not. The problem is with living, breathing, individuals only.

I favor the view that all men lead lives of quiet desperation.

Where do our philosophies come from if not from our nature?

They need to believe they have no business killing or enslaving their neighbors…

I have no intention of ‘killing’ you.

How much do children carry with them into adulthood?

Do they still sell indulgences?

11. May 10, 2003

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
But this does not argue that honesty has any advantage, only that it can also work. One thing learned quickly in business is that a dollar today is worth millions tomorrow. You must live for the day. I have seen many people go down waiting for all of that invested good will to pay off...especially consulting engineers. I feel that although worthy, from a purely logical point of view honesty is the more difficult path

"If the essence of good - GOD - is real, then there are real reasons to do good." Your reasons to do good are only abstractions. Abstractions are not real. Therefore no real reasons exist to do good.

Again, to what advantage? Why choose the hard path?

Business has the brutality of math and physics, but I agree that it is neither good nor evil. Things are what they are. It is merely a forum for comparison about which I have some first hand knowledge. Many good business people do many good things, however I find no implicit motivation to do so.

Even though a king may commit suicide, there's desperate and then there's DESPARATE. I cannot even imagine living as some do. I grew up near the ghetto areas of Watts in California. I was one of the lucky participants in the force bussing programs of the 1970s. I went to school with armed gang-bangers whose value for life equates to a pack of cigarettes. Once I got past the hatred and fear, I realized that these people are the product of hopelessness. People need hope for real things...even when little really exist.... So even if I can't convince you that God is real, perhaps I can convince you that the need for a real God is real.

Ultimately this is a faith argument. I think the good within us is real, not just an abstraction.

I see the use of God's name to promote war as the greatest hypocrisy found in all religions.

I wish my wife would say that once in awhile

Good point. Many never do understand the more sophisticated aspects of their own belief system ...especially the Catholics in my experience.

Still, one can point to many many good things done by the Catholic Church that go mostly unnoticed...and surely without thanks! Instead of pointing to the St Vincent DePaul Society of today, which is a Catholic Charity that does tremendous good, most point the something done in the middle ages. It is also noteworthy that while many religions go out to convert people, the Catholics often first help people, then they try to effect conversion.

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12. May 10, 2003

I've been at this computer too much today and I'm tired. What I was attempting to show is that religion is the easy way out. Whether a it is a young person doing as they please then seeking forgiveness in the confessional, or a businessman who cheats someone then does the same thing. When it is taken to the extreme it may turn up as an indulgence where forgiveness is paid for. This absolves people from the injury they have done to others. If you ask “why not take the easy route” I’d reply “Because I see in this easy way something I cannot agree with”, and what makes me disagree has absolutely nothing to do with god.

13. May 11, 2003

### Royce

Could any or all of this be why Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is here on earth and now. Implying that we shouldn't wait for heaven and it's rewards
Or why Buddha said at least in effect; Let God and heaven take care of themselves. It is living our lives now and here that I am concerned about.

14. May 11, 2003

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
I suspect that the biblical reference is out of context. Can you provide a little more information? Also, I may agree but I'm not sure what you mean. Could you elaborate a little?

15. May 11, 2003

### LogicalAtheist

I would like to respond to this, but I am not sure what the direct question is. Can you restate it properly? I think that, being as my name states, and a strong member in quite a large atheist community, I could provide a good answer to...well what's the question?!?

16. May 11, 2003

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
I completely appreciate your point of view but I must maintain just the opposite. I am trying to show that religion is not the easy way out at all. It is hard to live as a good Christian. Those who use religion as a convenience are hypocrites. My faith demands that I strive to maintain higher standards than I might really want. You seem to argue that these standards are implicit to our nature. I say that this nature within us is real and not just a philosophical premise or biological urge. I guess that philosophically, you see yourself as good, but I say no, you are really good. I guess we are down to a faith argument on this point.

17. May 11, 2003

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
I completely appreciate your point of view but I must maintain just the opposite. I am trying to show that religion is not the easy way out at all. It is hard to live as a good Christian. Those who use religion as a convenience are hypocrites. My faith demands that I strive to maintain higher standards than I might really want. You seem to argue that these standards are implicit to our nature. I say that this nature within us is real and not just a philosophical premise or biological urge. I guess that philosophically, you see yourself as good, but I say no, you are really good. I guess we are down to a faith argument on this point.

18. May 11, 2003

Yes, we won’t be able to reach an agreement over this one. The type of religion we are dealing with here has the potential of allowing you, to injure me, then relieve yourself from guilt by seeking forgiveness from a third party (god, the priest in the confessional, etc.). Now, you might argue that your beliefs would have you come to me and attempt to make amends, but that doesn’t really alter that you can take a load off your mind without doing so…. Do you see what I’m getting at here?
I maintain that the only one you need forgiveness from is me, the one you harmed, and you are not going to get it until you come see me and I give it to you.

Now let us turn it around and look at it from my end, where I (the non-religionist) injure you. I know what I have done is wrong, and I know that the only way for me to every feel at peace with myself is if I beg your forgiveness and offer to make it up to you somehow. I do not have the luxury of easing my mind by any other means (well, I could be a sociopath, but that’s another story). There is no safety net for me to fall back on, I must simply do what is right.

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19. May 11, 2003

### HazZy

that's simply not true. confessions are done to confess ones sins in hopes that god will forgive you, not that through god only the person you injured will forgive you. a man punched another man, did a confession, then walked up to the man he punched pretending like everything was ok -- is this situation even plausible? no.

the person may feel that god forgives him, but he surely feels guilt from what he did to the other person, knowing the only way to make up is to apologize face to face.

20. May 11, 2003

### LogicalAtheist

Why are you superimposing a mythological concept onto a real concept, and expecting any possible outcome to result? An outcome from such an event will never occur.