Be good for goodness’ sake.

Recently, an atheist bus campaign was brought to fruition in the UK. Its point was to convey a message that worrying about what happens after life really doesn’t do much to improve what’s happening during life. Now there is a new humanist campaign. This one takes place in the United States.

DENVER — Ads proclaiming, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake,” will appear on Washington, D.C., buses starting next week and running through December, sponsored by The American Humanist Association.

“Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion.”

While the religious who are utterly offended by the notion that morality can exist outside their world of make-believe will object to this message, they really shouldn’t. It does one of the few good things religion has going for it – it reaches for a sense of community. As one of the social animals, humans need the contact and closeness which religion has the ability to harness. Hopefully this humanist message can help to foster the community sense by appealing to the wide-spread desire to simply be a good person.

It’s too bad people like Bill Donahue are under the delusion that morality somehow comes from religion. See a video with the same general idea here.

Codes of morality, of course, have always been grounded in religion. For those of us in Western civilization, its tenets emanate from the Judeo-Christian ethos. By casting this heritage aside, and replacing it with nothing more than the conscience of lone individuals, we lay the groundwork for moral anarchy. And that is because there is nothing that cannot be justified if the only moral benchmark is what men and women posit to be right and wrong. Indeed, every monster in history has followed his conscience.

The man is blatantly wrong. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say he isn’t willing to stone a woman to death for adultery or any other absurd command that is in the Bible. It’s morally repugnant by today’s standards. But what makes Donahue not cast (physical) stones? It certainly isn’t the idea of morality in his religion or from his god. The very reason he (and all others) pick and choose from holy books and philosophers is that our sense of morality comes from somewhere outside these books.

8 Responses

  1. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say he isn’t willing to stone a woman to death for adultery or any other absurd command that is in the Bible.”

    Jesus was unwilling to stone a woman to death for adultry if you recall. Stoning wasn’t about morality, it was enforcing the law. For the atheist, if there is no God, no judgement, etc. why bother be good? Who cares about good if there are no consequences? Without God’s law, there is no right or wrong. How can anything be wrong if there is no God? I find your logic faulty.

  2. Fair enough on my accuracy. But I still think regardless of what Jesus said, any sane person would recognize stoning as an immoral act because of our morality which exists independent of religion.

  3. The very reason he (and all others) pick and choose from holy books and philosophers is that our sense of morality comes from somewhere outside these books.

    I don’t know any Christians who would argue our ‘morality’ can come from other places besides books – obviously.

    But the question is really one of reliable mutually agreed upon morality; that requires a common, external source.

  4. But I still think regardless of what Jesus said, any sane person would recognize stoning as an immoral act because of our morality which exists independent of religion.

    Well considering stoning was a fairly common practice up until a few centuries ago, and still is in many parts of the world, you must think that most of humanity is or has been insane. Odd conclusion that.

  5. “For the atheist, if there is no God, no judgement, etc. why bother be good? Who cares about good if there are no consequences? Without God’s law, there is no right or wrong. How can anything be wrong if there is no God? I find your logic faulty.”

    Be good for goodness’ sake, like the ad says. Because it feels good. Because it makes you happy. Because we have empathy, and making other people happy makes us feel happy in return. And hurting other people also hurts us.

    We make right and wrong ourselves, and we judge that based on observation and the evidence of harm or benefit.

  6. We make right and wrong ourselves, and we judge that based on observation and the evidence of harm or benefit.

    Who judges? I mean obviously millions of people, including governments and idividuals harm millions of others everyday in the most atrocious ways – ‘observation of harm’ in these case seems to do nothing to change certain people’s willingness to do it.

  7. “Who judges?”

    No who. The handy dandy scientific method.

  8. No who. The handy dandy scientific method.

    There is no means by which the scientific method could be applied to morality. The scientific method is only useful on physical phenomena, morality isn’t such an animal.

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