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home : opinions : opinions January 25, 2015

2/2/2013 9:59:00 PM
Letter: Good people not motivated by fear of damnation


Columnist Buz Williams is at it again with his religious opinions. In his article on Tea Party extremism, he somehow sidesteps into notions about atheists. He kindly says a majority of them "are honest, moral and ethical" - a view some Christians wouldn't agree with! Statistics on this are hard to come by, but there are enough liars, cheaters and criminals in America for all denominations to share these faults equally with agnostics and atheists.

Buz then shows his lack of understanding by asking "why shouldn't atheists do whatever they can get away with." His assumption is medieval - wickedness can only be averted by threat of hell and damnation.

Most people are good, whatever their religious beliefs. People want their family and friends to love and trust them. This can be achieved by following the "Golden Rule" - treat others how you want to be treated. This simple rule replaces five of the Ten Commandments that address social issues; it avoids the rest that are religious in nature. This rule is in the New Testament, but predates that document. Without following this universal rule, no society could last long, regardless of its particular religious beliefs or lack thereof.

Buz seems to think that the Declaration of Independence and the rights defined by the Constitution were divinely inspired - thus a challenge to atheists. Therefore, these rights cannot be taken away as they could if "they came from a king or dictator or government." The founding fathers, who wrote the Constitution, understood human frailty. They defined how the Constitution could be changed without divine intervention. The amendment process is difficult, but it allows rights to be added (voting rights for women) or removed (slavery abolished). So these rights are not "unalienable" and did not come from God as Buz claims - Americans wrote them!

Nigel Reynolds


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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: Chris Bergman

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Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Article comment by: a bc

@Chris - In your posts you often hint (or more than hint) at the superiority of your religious position, but when the log that sits squarely in your own eye is pointed out you fall back on the "ah shucks, we're just simple folks" routine. When facing the same question about the essence of “good” you posed to How is it?, you show that you really don't have a decent answer either, just more hints of Christian superiority. It's pretty much what I thought would happen.
Well earned cynicism, yeah.

Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Article comment by: How Is It?

Jeez, I thought Bergman had more going for him than this rambling, sourpuss sarcasm. Rough weekend indeed. To say so little with so many words... crash and burn. Looks like he may have been edited at the end it got worse!?

Chris, your "ordinary people" cop-out wasn't even sincere, let alone germane. More like angry self-pity. Your book hasn't taught you that most of the "razored reef of reality" is avoidable. (Reefs shine as one of god's most exuberant earthly creations.) Yes, our station is low but your writing doesn't reflect that knowledge.

Your dogmatic insistence that christianity is the only/original source of knowledge of "good" and "evil" is an unnecessary loss, mostly for you. You are grounded on that reef, hollow and rusting.

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013
Article comment by: Chris Bergman

@abc, in the interest of furthering this discussion, and setting aside your obvious cynicism (no doubt well earned) toward Christianity, I will reveal now, something about Christians I am certain you have never heard before and that is just as certainly well outside the range of your cognitive inquiry...

Among all people on Earth, Christians... are... (wait for it)... just ordinary people. YUP! You heard it here folks! We're not normally supposed to admit this to mere “worldlings” like yourself, abc. You see, the worldlings have such an absurdly high expectation that Christians should be perfect examples of that perfect standard that we have continually insisted NO ONE can perfectly keep, but, having hearts full of compassion, we are loathe to burst you bubble, so to speak. We take no pleasure in dashing your dream that someday, you too, might measure up, against the razored reef of reality. So there you have it, we are just ordinary people. Born of the same family of man. And just as you have training and expertise in areas I do not, it is equally likely that we just might have some insight into the nature of good and evil that you do not. BUT...

Because we are ordinary people who have some small understanding of the nature of good and evil, and understanding that by “ordinary” we mean fallible, prone to pride and self aggrandizement (just like the worldlings), no, we do NOT rely on our own, made up, state of our indigestion definition of good or evil. I speak, Of course, of the Christian faith, not of the religions which have sprouted up around it and have done so because, as I said, we are ordinary. We do not sit together in community and vote, “is it 'good' to kill all the atheists?” and ...

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013
Article comment by: Many Forms of God and Religion

Considering that in the beginning of time, the few religions formed were witchcraft, Hebrew, Church of England, Catholicism (later on) and many God worshipping tribes and nationalities. Religion is a form of worshipping anyone or anything you hold in the highest form. You can woship the sun, sky, sea,. animals,etc. like many other countries did and still do. Unfortunately, atheists don't worship anyone but themselves, if that. Also, God is not a religion.

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013
Article comment by: a bc

@Chris - "...try to avoid answers which invoke either majority rule (the tyranny of the mob) or the rule of force (tyranny of the brute) because either of these can be overturned by the whim of circumstance and a whole new “good” come into play. I'm looking for how you, without a concept of a supreme, external, objective moral authority, can define and hold up the essence of “good.”"

Are you saying that your religious beliefs about good/bad are not some sort of mob rule (accepted church doctrine) or tyranny of the brute (church/god)? That they are somehow different or that they cannot be overturned on a whim (note changes in yours and all religions over time). Does your religion provide you with the knowledge of exactly what the essence of "good" is? Can you define it or did I miss it in one of your earlier posts? Can you answer your own question?

Most people tend to follow the accepted definitions of good/bad of their culture. These various religious, political and societal norms are created over time and most people tend to follow them. If you and I were raised in a cannibalistic society, we might think it good to hunt down and eat our neighbors. Were the Aztecs bad people for practicing human sacrifice and slavery? Were early Christians bad for following the truly awful Old Testament teachings? Did the definition of good change on a whim?

How do I define some penultimate essence of good? I really don't try, but behave as if I could. I realize this will sound like a dodgy answer, but I doubt you could answer it very well either (without evoking religious mob rule/brute force, etc.).

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013
Article comment by: How Is It?

Chris, thank you for refining your question but its still unclear. Is what right or wrong, that “good” isn’t tied to our perception of its consequences or is your reproductive strategy right or wrong?

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

It's Amazing how many times Paula Gize mentions "sock puppets". She and Bitter Clinger and Lyle Sentiss and Response and (I won't mention his name but I should) are all sock puppet commentators. They are the same person. This is the one with the most "sock puppets".

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Article comment by: Common Senzi

I prefer to get my morality out of a rambling and often conflicting book written thousands of years ago by people unknown.

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Article comment by: Chris Bergman

@ "How is it", as I am advancing the premise that "good" is not tied to our perception of its consequences, the particulars do not matter. Is it right or wrong? Why? And why should anybody else care about our opinions if theirs are different from our own? bergman_blogs@yahoo.com

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Article comment by: How Is It?

I would have liked to know about the premises of your question as you understand them. To you it may just be a rhetorical question but there are actualities to these things. Your question doesn’t apply to me as I don’t deny the existence of god.

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Article comment by: Chris Bergman

@ "How is it", I have a better question. How 'bout you focus on answering the question I posed rather than trying to avoid it? Come on, I'm genuinely interested. Let's see what you've got. bergman_blogs@yahoo.com

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Article comment by: How Is It?

Chris, how is it that "...many children from different mothers invariably becaomes a burden on social services..."? Please explain.

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Article comment by: Chris Bergman

@ dog on, sorry, it's been a rough weekend. Yes, religion is primarily a “Tell me what to do” tool, for people who want to make themselves “good” or who want to feel “good” about what they're doing. This is why religions like LDS and Islam are so popular among distressed peoples (like those in jail). They tell you what to DO. You don't have to think. You don't have to consider. You don't really even have to believe. You just have to DO.

But here's the thing, neither the examples above, nor the ones you offered, deal with the question of what IS good and how do we KNOW? Let me put it this way, if I, being a man, take my pleasure where ever I can find it and father several children by several different women in my youth, we can say from a natural position that this is “good.” The more children I have and the more I spread myself about, the better the chance of advancing my genetic distinctive. And, well, I certainly enjoyed it. From the perspective of Society this is not “good” because many children from different mothers invariably becomes a burden on social services making it harder for everyone else. Now, who is right, me and my nature or society, and why? When you answer this, try to avoid answers which invoke either majority rule (the tyranny of the mob) or the rule of force (tyranny of the brute) because either of these can be overturned by the whim of circumstance and a whole new “good” come into play. I'm looking for how you, without a concept of a supreme, external, objective moral authority, can define and hold up the essence of “good.” Why is our species going extinct “bad?” Many argue it isn't. Why is our not killing each other on a whim “good?” Several cultures practice just that.

What is the core or essence of “good?” Where does it come from? What makes it “good?” And why should anybody else care? bergman_blogs@yahoo.com

Posted: Saturday, February 09, 2013
Article comment by: Attentive Listener

My goodness. Did that feel good?

Posted: Friday, February 08, 2013
Article comment by: Paula Gize ~ Yet another atheist sock puppet to the rescue.

@ Flo & Eddie

You are proving my point.

Yes, quarks and lepons and such hypothetically change when observed...as in, observed by God! (Who else could do so?). God who watches over all we do with our free will, along with a knowledge of what is right and wrong, can cause us to change behavior.

So, please, please find a new arguement other than I and other christian centric persons of intellect are crazy and foolish. Cloaked insults do little to advance your roundy-round secular logic.

As to evolution, I mean what is it with you liberals and atheists? So convinced and arrogant to believe there is no God you will instead conjure up ghosts, aliens, meterorites, sixth & seventh senses, ancient wisdom (that can't be proven), and mythical events of mankind starting out as a fish or monkey or lesser ape.

Meanwhile, laughing at Christians, you say have no proof of a Creator, despite your having nothing but Kaffee-Klatch theory of a microbe landing on earth aboard a runaway meteor, crashing spaceship, or some type of fantastical creature born in the depths of an ocean volcano, to try explaining from whence man came, except from God.

Well, I see absolutely zero evidence of humankind coming from anyplace except a creator, so perhaps monkeys might be in your ancestry, but not mine. In fact, mankind has no relationship to any other animal, except other humans, who are God's people, like Adam & Eve were until the fall. Man has paid the price of ignoring God's will in the past, many times, and so it will be true again. Says so in the bible.

Particle Theory might, or might not, explain much. It does not explain the sudden appearance of humans into the fossil record, nor does it provide an answer to humans 'knowing' there is a higher force, because of a soul, an insight that no other animal species possesses. More, humans have the distinct ability to learn from their predecessors and pass information to their offsping, a trait no animal, even your beloved apes and dolphins, have managed to 'evolve' a similar ability.

There is absolutely no evidence of evolution, any more than there is of devolution, as since recorded and fossil history there is no evidence of either man or beast changing from one creature to another. Which is why we are all born with an appendix that has no seeming purpose.

There is ample evidence to prove creation.

Which is why, despite great efforts, lifetimes of work, and global exploration all the vaunted scientists, atheists, blasphemers, magicians, Particle Theorists, philosophers, and great minds of history cannot show a single word in the bible as being false, disprove creation, or provide a missing link.

There isn't one.

Posted: Friday, February 08, 2013
Article comment by: Flo & Eddie

@Paula Gize ~ Noah and the 7 Quantum Theory Sockpuppets

Paula, your lengthy answer reveals much, but not the way you’d have wished. First, I’m not sure how you believe the Noah story was somehow a “gotcha” moment for you, but it wasn’t hardly. It just proves you can quote fiction with more verve. Go ahead and score that point for yourself if you like. Second, you said the idea of a floating Avatar is merely a way of educating children. That’s true. And then those children grow up to be adults like yourself, whose entire belief system is defined by such fairy tales. Thirdly, you cite the Particle Theory and how particles of matter when studied can vastly change throughout life. That’s somewhat similar to the theory of evolution, no? That life, when studied anthropologically, absolutely changes matter and movement, exactly as you stated. But, I’m certain you’ll take a U-turn on your own thesis and conclude that such nonsense can’t happen in a theory of creationism. That each time anthropologists discover remains that they should, a) sweep them up and trash them, or b) study them but disregard results that scientifically suggest evolution.

I could go on, Paula/Lyle. But you get the point that your post revealed much more than you set out to.

Take care.

Posted: Friday, February 08, 2013
Article comment by: dog on

Chris, I guess your statement about religion trying to "make" people "good" is what I've been (trying) to get across. I think people are good or bad despite their religious view. It's in the individual not the "god". As for what is "good" or "bad" I guess my thoughts on that are, if for example ( and this is obviously an exaggerated perspective), taking another humans life was as easy for all of us as it is to shake hands, then we as a race would have been extinct long ago. But it isn't and I don't think the religious teachings of the world is what gives humans the ability to put those two things into "good" and "bad" categories.

Posted: Friday, February 08, 2013
Article comment by: Chris Bergman

@ dog on, insult you? Not a chance! I've already been schooled (from both giving and receiving) on the ineffectiveness of insult in debate. I will confess to mocking those who prove themselves eminently mock worthy, however. Dyslexic, as in, “dog on” read backwards? Reminds me of a joke... Anyway, you said “That is my point. religion does not make one a good person.” Fact is, that's exactly what “religion” tries to do, “make” people “good.” And, as you pointed out, that is also exactly what it fails to do. That is also the point of the LAW (Talmud) and Christianity, that (1) No one can keep the whole law, so as to be perfect, and (2) even if you try really, really hard, there's no way to be sure you've been “good” enough.

Every religion on the planet (including atheism) has as its goal the self-perfection of man. Theistic religions see god on top of the mountain and say, “We must climb to the top to be worthy.” Christianity says, “God, on the mountain top, looks down and says, 'You can't make the climb to me, so I'll come down to you and be perfect for you.'” This is why Christianity, as revealed in the Scriptures, is wholly different from all the World's religions.

As to the letter and the issues it raises, the big question everyone keeps dancing around but no one seems to want to tackle head on is, “How do you define “good” or “right” in the absence of God?” I know godless people can be moral. Morality is just the pragmatic attempt to codify rules that help us get along in society. The “Do's and Don't's of polite behavior. Morality is nothing more than the most cynical version of mob rule. But if you say that it's “wrong” to murder or that you “try to do what's right”, you use those terms in their absolute sense. That is, you are saying it is wrong for you to murder AND it's wrong for everyone else, too. You say there is such a thing as “right”, independent of your desires AND that that right is “right” for everyone else too. By what authority, or according to what standard do you measure the “wrongness” of murder or the “rightness” of your life?

If you, as some have done, suggest that the measure of right and wrong are to be found in society's common understanding, then we're right back to mob rule again. In this case, “Right” is only a matter of brute force, with the biggest brute forcing his idea of “right” on everyone else and when it's PEOPLE making up the definition of right and wrong, that definition is ALWAYS skewed in favor of the people making up the definition (i.e. it's right for me to have guns, blow Americans up with drones and lock inconvenient people away without due process, but it's wrong for you to do it.) Now, is that “right?” bergman_blogs@yahoo.com

Posted: Friday, February 08, 2013
Article comment by: Paula Gize ~ Noah and the 7 Quantum Theory Sockpuppets

a bc: As I felt would be the case you -again- are unable to answer a simple biblical question, this time about how the animals were loaded onto the Ark. You probably sensed that I was trying to trick you somehow, but I was not.

The answer, BTW, is: 7
(Most people are under the impression it was 2 by 2 (i.e. a pair), but this is incorrect according to most theologians and many versions of the Holy Bible, as well.) In fact the term, "Lucky Seven" has its roots in this biblical circumstance.

I used that 'trick' not to confuse you or banter, or be rude, but instead to illustrate how limited most persons (as well as prideful self-described atheists etc.), are when it comes to Christian religion beliefs and precepts. Most are simply ignorant of what actual christian philosophy is really all about, and strike back with a sniff and eye-roll whenever the topic comes about.

For instance, as much as snarky non-believers wish to portray it so, christians do not believe there is a cartoonish bearded old Avatar floating around in the clouds, seeing all, while waiting to smite down sinners. Because we know that such is not the case, that is Sunday School level for children to help them understand, not a belief of mature adults seeking truth and honoring God in a humble fashion. We also know that while God cannot be explained, because the perception is beyond man's current ability to understand.

We also share a faith that allows us to have wide ranging ideas and still remain true to our religion, which provides fundamental building blocks where non-barbaric society can flourish, especially western Christian cultures such as the United States.

As to what you call sin, well, consider something. Although they cannot be seen, accept in Theory, or by use of a nuclear particle accelerator, what are called 'quarks' ‘leptons’ and ‘hadrons’ etc are an infinitesimally small particles of matter from which all things are built, yet each must interact with other elements to function and live, for lack of a better term. This is called Particle Theory, and many universities have physics courses concering this discipline. (Hint, hint).

And, once observed, these particles of matter can be proven mathematically to in theory change their movements and activity. Hey, kind of sounds like human beings, who (as is everything else on earth) are made of these very same elements, and might alter themselves when observed, like say by God. (Or, Prescott Valley traffic cameras, for that matter).

While scared non-believers poo-pooh the story of virgin birth, earthly miracles, crucifixion, and resurrection into heaven such events are well acknowledged in past and present religious belief systems. It is just that christians know (via wisdom from God), what is right, what is wrong, what is truth, what is false, what is sin..and what is love.

Meanwhile, from the most vile and stupid criminal on death row, all the way to the Pope, anyone having a christian belief in God, has full knowledge of being a sinner, and knows in their heart that both earthly and heavenly (man and God) judgement awaits us all. Even scared little atheists know this in their heart.

Got faith?

Posted: Thursday, February 07, 2013
Article comment by: a bc

@Paula - Whoa, that last blast was off the charts. ... That is some crazy, bitter, angry sounding fundamentalist christian word salad. You make me sooo happy religion never found me and that I don't know you.

Posted: Thursday, February 07, 2013
Article comment by: Paula Gize ~ Bad, bad human!

Man, oh man. It’s attack of the sock puppets today. How scary.

So, No Names, you say there are many “…cultures without religion…” and they all “… had names…”, yet you cannot come up with a name of a single current or antiquated culture, anywhere in the world, or history of the world, to prove your point, EXCEPT about 300 tribal people living under leaves in a South American rainforest, fighting with monkeys over fruit, with no real language except whistling at one another.

Yet, you grasp onto this straw to prove your grand point about religion keeping societies from flourishing. Yet, this lack of fact and focus is not enough to keep you from calling myself, Christians, and anyone with a religion as being ignorant, stupid, and (now what was it No Name said?) oh, yeah, I was “…blinded by culture, ignorance and pride”.

Apparently he feels this way because believing in God and practicing Christianity is deemed to being “…beyond (my) knowledge…”. And again the atheist(s) rest on their laurels of presenting the Pariah tribe as an example of how far mankind can progress without a belief in God. Really?

What, the Piltdown Man thing is worn out?

Atheism is its own religion, and persons who make a life of standing against the mores of a Christian religion, meanwhile living in its protective embrace, are worse than hypocrites, they are also arrogant fools, soon to be calling on God to save a loved one or themselves, when death come callin'.

Religions evolve, you say. I think that is backwards, because if there was evolution involved we would not be aborting babies, dropping bombs, building prisons, and shooting drugs into our bodies. The societies built by mankind tend to change as technology improves and knowledge grows, but man himself is not altered.

There is little difference between a modern 21st century human being today, than there is from Adam and Eve thousands of years ago. We do not evolve, as God made us the way we are now, from the beginning. Read any tome from any time period and it is clear the prejudices, wants, love, and desires of mankind have not changed at all.

The selfishness and goodness of man outlined in the Holy Bible are precisely the same today, as when Ezekiel walked the earth, and Noah built the Ark.

There is little sense in continuing a debate with person(s) who deliberately ignore what is right in front of their nose, knowledge that is immediately available, and I don’t mean the internet. Therefore I will give you a little test, only one question. I would like you to answer it without looking in the bible, but likely you cannot, even though the answer is supposedly known to almost every person in America:

Q. When Noah opened the Ark, so the ‘clean’ animals could be loaded, how were they matched up.

(HINT: It was not “Two by Two” and Noah did not collect or load them.)

Once that simple of a question can be answered, then perhaps you might start on a voyage of introspection and christian study to realize what else your atheism has caused in the way of poor assumptions and false knowledge of what religion is and is not.

Posted: Thursday, February 07, 2013
Article comment by: dog on

Paula, I'm an atheist, so by definition I don't have "love" of any religion. Have you run full circle now that you need to start a new argument to avoid the original subject?
The original basis of the letter was, basically, does religion make a person "good". If that were true, using your astronomical projection of "every single culture, from the dawn of mankind's history has had a religion of some type, many were surprisingly similar to christianity." One could figure that the history of mankind was one big hug fest. This is simply not true. Your very valid points about the atrocious acts happening in the not only the Muslim world but throughout the world in general only strengthen my point. Religion is not the deciding factor of what makes humans "good" or "bad"

Now I realize this my be difficult for you, considering your extremely verbose posts, but try to stay on subject when replying. Thanks.

And don't feel left out Chris, I'm not ignoring you I'm just trying to figure out what your post actually brought to the subject. It kind of sounds like you might be agreeing with me.(?) But I also think you may have tried to insult me(?) So in any case welcome to the philosophical fray!

Posted: Thursday, February 07, 2013
Article comment by: No Names

Paula, you're wrong on all counts: not all cultures had religion and even if they did, so what?

The assumption of your question is that the cultures without religion had names. You think that you could research them online or in a library. You're in over your head, vehemently proclaiming things beyond your knowledge.

You keep going back to sociopolitical profiles as if that's some measure of godliness. Clearly YOU are the secularist, blinded by culture, ignorance and pride. On the other hand, some of the "vanished cultures," as you put it, were "raptured," to borrow a contemporary term, but you know nothing of that. Ironically, it was christianity, to some degree, that drove real knowledge of god underground.

I’m glad that you know that religions evolve. Why can't you see that the time will come when people will outgrow christianity as YOU know it? Can that time come too soon?

Posted: Thursday, February 07, 2013
Article comment by: a bc

@Paula - No, this is not my atheistic example, these people aren't atheists, they have no concept of god to reject in the way an atheist might.

You wrote, "You feel this proves the point of a godless society being the way for mankind to live? Really?" I never said this. I made no judgements about how they live as you have. I simply presented a religion-free culture. You asked for a human culture without any religion and I provided one. You set no conditions as to the cultures ultimate validity or fitness. You use the word flourish, but that is a subjective word. These people have lived happily and peacefully in their environment for who knows how many 1000s of years. Sorry that this does not meet up with your idea of what constitutes flourishing.

You wrote earlier, "All, every single culture, from the dawn of mankind's history has had a religion of any type, many were surprisingly similar to Christianity." And the Piraha shows this statement isn't true.

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