Good is Good

In the past, I've argued, like many atheists, against the appalling morals of the bible. Even the new testament has immoral acts being promoted in it. The first that comes to mind is that the only way God could help us poor sinful creatures (who were created by him, obviously imperfectly) was to have his son sacrificed. Seriously, is that really the best this barbaric god could come up with? Couldn't he find a better way to fix his mistakes? But I digress.

See, it's really easy to tear the bible apart with logic, a basis in good morality, reason, critical thinking and basic skepticism.

But what about the morals of actual Christians? Where do those morals come from - the Bible or elsewhere? If you ask a Christian they will say it all comes from the bible.

Certainly if you are a fundamentalist and you think the bible is the inerrant word of God, and you don't eat pork or shellfish, you think homosexuality is an abomination, you only wear one type of fabric at a time, you think owning slaves is fine as long as they come from other tribes, then you would think of yourself as a "good" Christian.

I would beg to differ. I'm talking about people who are genuinely good. So what defines a good person? I think there are two factors:

  • Someone who attempts to make the lives of others better - The Golden Rule (should also include animals and the environment)
  • Someone who purposefully does not negatively affect others - The Silver Rule
So if you take that one verse by Jesus in Matthew 7:12 - So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (NIV) - then Christians are being truthful in saying they get their morals from Jesus/the bible.

Of course, they have to throw out all the hateful/murderous/barbaric stuff, which makes them serious Cafeteria Christians. But I would prefer that they throw out all that Iron Age barbarism. Wouldn't you?

In my 10 Principles, the first two are the Golden Rule and the Silver Rule. The third is the Platinum Rule. 

But as you probably know, Jesus didn't come up with the Golden Rule. Confucius had a version of it, as did the Ancient Greeks and other cultures before and since. 

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this basic tenet for a functioning society and working relationships. It's common sense. 

What I'm trying to get at is this: A good person who is a Christian and a good person who is an atheist are good for the same reasons. They just might attribute who suggested their morals to them, or how they came about those ideas, to different sources.

We are all on Team Human (or if you'd like to include the rest of the living things then you could say we're all on Team Life - feel free to come up with something snappier, lol) on our Pale Blue Dot. We're all in this together.

It's natural for us to have an Us vs Them mentality. That's basic In-Group/Out-Group behavior and thinking which is ancient. But as Dawkins said in the Selfish Gene, the more we know about the biological drives of our genes, the more we can work to rise above that selfish imperative.

The most important thing is how you live your life. What actions do you take? It doesn't matter where or how you learned to be good, it only matters that your actions and words are good, and that they match up.

So let's keep that in mind when we go out into the world. Let's judge each person by their actions and words, and try to find common ground with people instead of seeing them as the enemy just because the things they believe or don't believe in don't match up to your worldview.

And Christians, remember you don't have a monopoly on goodness. There were people following the Golden Rule long before it was written down and attributed to Jesus in the gospels. To this day there are people who have never heard of Jesus who probably follow that concept naturally, just because it makes sense.

Like most atheists, I care about my world and the living creatures on it, and I am a good person mainly just because it's the right thing to do. I'm not just a humanist because I care about all of the living creatures on our planet (except mosquitoes and a few other creepy crawlies that I won't mention - but even those things have their place and are part of our ecosystem). I don't know what to call myself, but I know many other atheists who are good 'Just Because'. 

So let's try to work together and see what we have in common. We're all on the same team. 


  1. "So let's keep that in mind when we go out into the world. Let's judge each person by their actions and words, and try to find common ground with people instead of seeing them as the enemy just because the things they believe or don't believe in don't match up to your worldview."



    For reals though, I absolutely agree with you on this. Nothing frustrates me more than seeing people written off as "bad" without spending time getting to know them. Content of a person's character and all of that.

    1. Thanks Alise!

      I think stereotypes work as a rough heuristic for groups of people. But when you deal with individuals, it behooves you to put aside the stereotypes and get to know that person for who they really are.

      People can be quite surprising, sometimes for the better, sometimes not, but you'll never know if you write someone off just because they seem to fit a mold you don't like. :)