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. “
“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.“
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.