Challenging a Misperception Among Many Evangelicals; Can you be Good Without God?

Brandon Withrow in the Daily Beast wrote an article that asked, can you be good without God? While the article illustrates the issue of discrimination against atheists I want to focus on evangelical theology. Do you need God to be good? What about the many churches I have written about that contain disturbing stories of criminal allegations? If you need God for a transformed life then how is that explained? 

“Surround yourself with good people. People who are going to be honest with you and look out for your best interests. “

Derek Jeter

“It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.

Helen Keller 

Reason Rally in 2016 in Washington, D.C.  

Recently in a Center for Inquiry email I saw an article that was being promoted that I put aside and wanted to write about. The article is called “Can You Be Good Without God” and is by Brandon Withrow in the Daily Beast. The article comes about on the tail of a new study that shows how discrimination against atheists comes from many religions and is not isolated to Abrahamic or monotheistic majority societies. While the article looks at things in a broader context I want to ask the question can you be good without God, in the context of evangelicalism? What is taught and what is said? What are the problems with what is taught? 

 

What Evangelicals Have Taught 

In evangelicalism over the years I have often heard that you need God to be a good person. That you need God to become a new creation, or to better society. The thinking is that you are born-again, become a new creation, become moral and that you stand out. People are to notice you for how you live and more. I hear this often, and actually I heard it in a sermon not long ago in a place I popped up in. This belief that you need God to be good is deeply embedded in evangelical theology and culture. I have heard it in different states, and different churches. It crosses theological streams from mainstream to some of the Neo-Calvinist theology. It is a topic that I have heard over and over in the passage of time. It was also one that I bought into until my faith crisis tore it away from me. I know this post may be challenging to many people but I think its important that we discuss differing topics and explore them. 

 

Do You Need God to be Good? 

Today while I believe in God I do not believe that you need God to be good. I believe that this is faulty teaching and that it leads to a host of problems. I think one of the by-products for Christians is that it leads to behavior modification which creates problems in many ways. It leads many evangelical Christians to be dishonest and it paints them into a trap. Christians become cornered and can’t admit frailties or faults because of the culture that has been created. It also leads to other problems as well, one of the biggest being that it leads to discrimination of atheists and secular humanists by Christians.

Atheist discrimination by Christians is a big concern for me when I write about this topic. I firmly believe that Christians should not be intervening to deny or prevent atheists and others from living their life. I have written about discrimination against atheists in “The Issue of Christian Discrimination Against Atheists.” By discriminating or being prejudiced we look at atheists and others through a warped view that is off. Christians being misconceptions and look at atheists through faulty information. This is one of the issues that really needs to be challenged in evangelicalism, as it creates so many problems. It sets up Christians for failure. It creates issues for atheists in that it encourages prejudice against them. But one of the biggest issues that I have with this line of thought goes along with something that I write about often. 

 

What About When Criminal Allegations Happen in Churches?

When Christians tout and claim that you need God to be good what about all the issues that happen in many Christian churches? I have written about many churches that are very conservative in theology, and yet there is many problems going on. From a church that allegedly destroyed child pornography that was manufactured in a church restroom to a church that covered up the alleged rape and domestic abuse by the senior pastors son doesn’t that show the problem in this theology? If Christians believe you need God to be a good person why then the problems? Why does this keep popping up over and over? Can someone explain this to me? This is one topic that I have laid in bed thinking about frequently. Actually I was telling a friend about this the other day. I am puzzled why so many people who are Christians can be so cold, difficult, mean, arrogant, condescending, and yes cruel. Then in contrast why have I met so many atheists or people who are nothing who can be loving, kind, grace filled, warm, caring, compassionate, and do a better job than the Christians? Its left me scratching my head in asking this to myself. Why is this like this today? Anyone have any thoughts on why this is like this? Do Christians become angry because they impose a brutal system on themselves? Are atheists and other not tangled in legalism and are free to be themselves more, which leads them to be more loving and compassionate in the end. I am just asking these questions. 

 

When Atheists and Secular Humanists Prove This Notion Wrong 

This blog has written a few stories that show this line of thinking by evangelicals to be incorrect. The posts I have written also show how evangelicals really struggle with this notion as well.In the fall of 2016 I wrote about how an atheist organization attempts to help an American Baptist Church Mission Children’s Home was rejected. You can read the entire story in “When the Atheist has a Better Understanding of the Gospel than the Christian.” Then I wrote about an atheist group in Southeast Texas that helps feed and take care of the homeless. You can read that story in “An Atheist Group in Southeast Texas Takes Care of the Homeless, and in the Process Teaches Why you do not Need God to do Good.”  In the two stories above there are examples of how atheists challenge and rightfully push back against this prejudice. Its a major issue in my book, as Christians should not be engaging in any form of discrimination at all. This is a topic that should not even be an issue. Its my sincere hope that more atheists will do more like-minded programs. That more homeless, those who are mentally ill, those in domestic abuse situations will be helped and that this form of discrimination can be put to bed. That is my call for the atheists and secular humanists. Challenge and push back, speak your mind. I plan to write about this issue as I hear about stories over the course of time. That’s it for the day guys, please know that I love you. 

25 thoughts on “Challenging a Misperception Among Many Evangelicals; Can you be Good Without God?

  1. Isaiah 64:6
    But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

    Based on your header:
    “What Evangelicals Have Taught”,

    Are you indicating that the Bible does not teach this? What does “evangelicals” have to do with it? What’s up with your constant word “evangelicals”? What’s an “evangelical”? Is that like, Catholic? Mormon? Jehovah’s Witnesses? Lutheran? Calvinist? Baptist? Doesn’t anyone use the word Christian anymore?

    I notice that the word, “Christian” is kinda always missing from your stuff, and it’s just all, “evangelical”.

    But the question should not be about people being or doing good. The question is, do GOOD PEOPLE get to heaven?

    Why was the Law of Moses given?

    Was it for the purpose of morality?

    Are Christians or even “evangelicals” BOUND by the law of Moses?

    According to the Bible, the law was given to INCREASE SIN, not to conform people to morality.

    Romans 5:20
    The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,

    What Law, out of the Law of Moses, are Christians held to account?

    Answer:
    Love Thy Neighbor as thyself.

    How do people get to heaven?

    Why is your focus always about THIS EARTH?

    John 8:23
    But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

    John 3:31
    The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all.

    Does not Ecclesiastes teach us that things of THIS EARTH is all vanity?

    In the movie, Devil’s Advocate, “Vanity, certainly my favorite Sin”

    Colossians 3:2
    Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

    Colossians 3:8
    But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

    I know you have a problem with anger!!!!

    Jude 1:8
    Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.

    YE ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH…YE ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD * Matthew 5

    What does that mean? We are to be EXAMPLES to CHANGE the world. What do you think GOOD WORKS is all about?

    But, your attitude is to have the world to conform to wickedness? Why?

    BE YE HOLY FOR I AM HOLY.

    Do good people get to heaven? NO. FORGIVEN Repentant sinners do. Who cares about the wicked doing good things on earth. It’s all vanity.

    Ed Chapman

    Liked by 1 person

    • From experience in-country, I automatically distrust any argument of “Quote a Verse, Quote a Verse, Quote a Verse, Quote a Verse, Quote a Verse.”

      Liked by 3 people

    • With all due respect, you are missing the main point of the article. The question is, “Can you be good without God?” and depending on the world’s definition of good, the answer is yes. Around Christmas, people of all world views contribute to the Salvation Army kettles. During the recent hurricanes, people of many various faiths and non-faiths donated through various charities. By any definition, these are good acts. Here is a video of a good Buddhist: https://youtu.be/uaWA2GbcnJU Did he do good? Of course.

      Knowing historically and culturally what a Samaritan was, if Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to the Church in the United States, he would have retitled it, The Good Atheist or The Good Homosexual.

      But with all due respect, you are answering as if the question was, “Can you be righteous without God?” and that is a resounding no and I agree with your analysis.

      Great answer, but directed at the wrong question.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Samaritans were not atheists. In those days, there was no such thing as an atheist. Remember the Samaritan Woman at the well? What did she tell Jesus about the difference between what Jews believe, vs. what her people believe?

        Read John 4…

        Verse 20
        Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

        Verse 25
        The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.

        Verse 39
        And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.

        So, they believed in a CHRIST to come, they worshiped God in a mountain, vs., Jews at the temple.

        So, why do you bring equating Samaritans to an atheist or homosexual?

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  2. Luke 11:13
    If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

    What????
    Evil people doing good????? Hmmmmm

    That’s JESUS calling people evil, not us, so-called “EVANGELICALS”, whatever that is.

    2 Timothy 3:13
    But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

    Like

  3. One comment still in moderation here…but, and additional comment is…

    Atheist:
    “Look at me…I’m doing good!”

    It’s the LOOK AT ME that I am focusing on here, and THIS Lady Gaga song is appropriate for that…
    (It must be noted that I LOVE LADY GAGA…I am a huge fan of Lady Gaga, even if she…

    Lives for the applause!!!!

    Like

  4. Ed says “Who cares about the wicked doing good things on earth.”
    Well, I do, for one, because I live here. And if they are doing good things, then it’s not fair to call them wicked, just because they don’t follow the same beliefs about the supernatural.

    It strikes me that the people who are the noisiest about their beliefs, quoting bible verses and using a lot of all caps on the internet, preaching and asking for money on TV, taking every opportunity to proclaim that only their version of their god is correct, and everybody else is hopelessly lost – those people seem to be the worst at doing the things that Jesus said to do. They are putting tribalism ahead of common decency. It’s not entirely their fault, they have been indoctrinated since childhood to do exactly that, and have weekly coaching sessions to make sure they don’t re-think their priorities. But if there actually were a holy spirit working through them the way they proclaim, you’d think they’d be better behaved.

    The very best christian that I can think of? Mister Rogers. He was an ordained minister, but he lived his beliefs instead of just preaching. His children’s show taught generations of kids about kindness, and curiosity, and valuing themselves and others. From what I have heard, what you saw on TV wasn’t a character he was playing, he was really like that all the time. I wish we had more christians like him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ubi Dubium,

      Luke 11:13
      If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

      What????
      Evil people doing good????? Hmmmmm

      That’s JESUS calling people evil, not us, so-called “EVANGELICALS”, whatever that is.

      2 Timothy 3:13
      But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

      Ubi Dubium,

      It’s amazing that the comments people make are from English Professors critiquing capital letters, punctuation marks, and…quotations from the Bible.

      Atheist:
      Look at me…I’m doing Good Deeds!!!!

      Christian:
      Don’t Let Your Right Hand Know What Your Left Hand Is Doing!

      Matthew 6:3
      But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

      But…let’s give you an applause, cuz you deserve one…for doing good deeds.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Have you ever been through Pittsburgh Airport? One of the four terminal wings has a Mister Rogers exhibit. He was a local boy from Pittsburgh.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ubi,

      Many NON-Christians can’t stand Mr. Rogers, and spent a lot of time making fun of him.

      Many NON-Christians don’t even act like Mr. Rogers, let alone the Christians that you speak of.

      I grew up in the era of Lassie and Leave It To Beaver, where those two shows “indoctrinated” our youth to be polite, kind, and nice.

      Note that I used the word, “indoctrinated”, as if that were a bad thing, right?

      It’s not a bad thing to be “indoctrinated” to Christianity, and to SPREAD THE WORD to the evil people so that they may ask for the Holy Spirit and the Father give them that good gift.

      But, just like the Non-Christians badmouthing and mocking Mr. Rogers for his goody two shoes persona, they also mock and make fun of Christians, just for wanting to spread the word about Christ.

      How many out there thought that Mr. Rogers was a flake? Come on…be honest.

      But, both he and Kaptain Kangaroo were both WAR HERO’S, too, that not many people knew.

      Ed Chapman

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      • Correction to my last regarding Mr. Rogers military service. He was never in the military. BUT, that is what FAKE NEWS does to us. SOMEONE began that rumor many years ago. Who, I just don’t know. But I’d sure like to know. And why.

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  5. I read atheist literature all the time and I dialogue with atheists when I can.

    I can say, yes, you can be good without God. However, two salient points:

    1. Christianity isn’t about being good. It’s about being righteous before God through the completed work of Jesus Christ through the cross and empty grave.
    2. I have met many a good atheist that cares for their fellow man and feed the hungry and clothe the poor, but though I laud them for their actions, they have never satisfactorily answered my question: “What motivates you to do this?” “How does altruism mesh with a completely naturalistic worldview?”

    Now the Babylon Bee is a satire site (I will repeat this as some of your readers may have missed that. Please forgive me for shouting. THE BABYLON BEE IS A SATIRE SITE), but satire is only good when it strikes a resonant chord.

    Atheist Delivers Powerful Testimony Of Coming To Believe Life Has No Purpose
    http://babylonbee.com/news/atheist-delivers-powerful-testimony-coming-believe-life-no-purpose/

    My favorite atheist is Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche and from my understanding of his worldview, if asked, “Can an atheist be good?” I believe he would have answered, “Of course, but why bother?” In reference to the Babylon Bee article, if atheists believe life has no meaning, than any effort to impute one to it is nothing more than whistling past the graveyard.

    For the tl;dr crowd: Nobody needs God to do good, but in the matter of adhering to a naturalistic world view where we are all nothing but food for the worms, why bother? Now if you want to be in good standing with God, you have to transcend mere goodness.

    Hey, HUG! Noticed I didn’t once quote a Bible verse? 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • As a Christian Comedian once said of the atheists who love to reason:

      “Why Reason Why When There Is No Reason Why?”

      It’s kinda a waste of their short time to spend time reasoning, when the conclusion is that there is no reason.

      Ed Chapman

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    • “…they have never satisfactorily answered my question: “What motivates you to do this?” “How does altruism mesh with a completely naturalistic worldview?”

      Well, part of removing religion from your life is realizing that your motivations can be your own, so there’s no one “atheist motivation”. Outside of religion, the meaning and purpose of life is not handed to you, and you don’t have to go find it. It’s yours to create for yourself, so we each can have our own individual motivation for doing good. I personally do acts of kindness because that’s the kind of world I want for me and my children and their children, a world where people care about each other. A world where the standard of behavior is that we look out for each other. The change you want to see in the world has to start with you.

      (Also, the idea of “reciprocal altruism” is quite a good survival strategy that humans have been using for a long time. We’re a social species that can only survive by cooperating. We offer help to others without expectation of immediate return because someday we may need help from them. That kind of behavior boosts everyone’s survival chances.)

      Like

      • I was going to answer your question there Alan, but Ubi has covered most of what I would say. To add to her statement I’d say for me personally it’s because I or people I care about have been in situations where help was needed. And I feel good about living up to my own standards, which is its own nice little reward.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I am confused by the question. Is the question ‘do you need to believe IN God in order to ‘be good’? If it IS, then I can say this: ‘even the devils believe and tremble’.

    As for this crew, what they have done to that child is an abomination, so I can say ‘so much for their ‘faith’ . . . . . . why would anyone do this to a child????

    Whatever happened to ‘Jesus Loves Me, This I Know’ ???

    I’ve known honest humble atheists and agnostics who had more humanity than that hooting howling hating strident homophobic congregation egging that poor little guy to sing one of their ‘hate chants’. That is NOT Christianity. No.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Again, ever wondered if Fred Phelps’ REAL sin was being open and direct about “GAWD H8S FAGS!” instead of using the Proper Code Words?

      Because THAT is becoming the reputation of Christ among the goyim.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well, HUG,

        What does the Bible say about THAT PARTICULAR sin? Even the New Test has something to say about it, doesn’t it?

        Romans 1:26
        For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

        What’s the code words in the Bible? Note the word, “VILE” in the above verse. What is that defined as?

        How about the word, REPENT? Are sinners supposed to repent, or are Christians supposed to inform people to continue to ‘BE WHO YOU ARE!”, adding that if Christians can’t accept WHO YOU ARE, screw ’em?

        So, is this a faulty Christian thing, as you accuse, or is it a Bible thing that you refuse to acknowledge?

        Just curious as to how you interpret Christianity.

        I always thought that REPENT, a code word, meant to CHANGE YOUR MIND about how you are doing things, and conform to how God wants you, rather than to BE WHO YOU ARE!

        I may be wrong, of course. Nah…I don’t think so.

        Ed Chapman

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      • Hello HUG,
        I once thought that fundamentalist-evangelicals were on some kind of continuum with Westboro Baptist Church at one end and a really cleaned-up group who tried to live ‘at peace with all if possible’ on the other end; so that you could ‘rate’ the ‘degrees’ that a Church fit into the continuum on how close it came to the Westboro intensity of ‘open’ hatred.

        I like your idea that many today use ‘code’ words and I agree with you. Even the most ‘negative’ of souls (that group you spoke of on TWW) who pride themselves in ‘directness’ would pull back from an identification with Westboro, I think. I mean, all the venom is there, it’s just ‘subrosa’ and coded and kept as some kind of ‘secret’ between all the participants with their winks and nods to one another.
        I think you are right: Fred Phelps’ group was OPEN about the hate. The others involved in it are ‘ashamed’ enough to try to keep it ‘re-defined’ as ‘truth in love’ but they fail at this . . . . dear God, how they fail. Are people supposed to ‘not get it’ that they are as hateful as Westboro, because they use ‘coded’ language? Or is the coded thing their way of having their cake and eating it too?
        Interesting thoughts there about the code stuff, HUG. Yep. I see it too.

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