I have heard, read, and followed this argument on many threads, blogs, videos, and debates. ‘Do we need God for us to be good, to be moral?’ I usually have wanted to yell at someone because it is completely obvious people without faith can have morals, love extravagantly, and strive to make the world a much better place.
Somehow these discussions seem to center on two things; First, why Christians have made non-christians feel like second class citizens, who same say are incapable of being good, or as good, as themselves. Or, second, if people can live morally without a belief in God than this a sign He does not exist. I would argue that both of these conclusions are flawed. In fact, I think this discussion points to an amazing truth.
Why have some Christians believed in limited goodness or argued that belief in God is necessary for morality? Just look at Romans 3:10 which says, ‘No one is righteous–not even one.’ Or perhaps, Psalm 53:1-3. ‘Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!’ The idea many have taken from these scriptures is that life without God means you, and everyone, will be morally corrupt.
One reason why there has been such a backlash from non-believers has been because of the condemning message and attitudes from those of faith. Through the use of scripture we have emphasized they are not good, or capable of doing good. It seems there has been a message that we are good, and you are not, even if appears you are doing good.
When someone called Jesus ‘good teacher’ He had an interesting response. It was, “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good.” (Mark 10:18) Notice His response was not, ‘ Yes God is good, the religious people are good, and everyone else is bad.’ He said only God is good. These verses were not meant to divide humanity into the ‘good group’ and the ‘bad group.’
Jesus put us all into the same group together. The religious, the faithful, the skeptics, the doubters, and those opposed.
The truth is those of faith, and those without, have proven that they are both capable of doing good, having morals, doing evil, and causing harm. We can look at the lives of both groups and find examples for whatever we are trying to prove. Even looking at the scriptures above ,how can we say that with the millions or billions of Christians and say, ‘all have turned away, no one does good?’
The real implication of this message is incredibly Good News. Yes, God is good. He is pure. He is light, with no room for darkness. Next to Him none of us compare. Whether you are a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, or something else, each one of us has moments when we have thoughts or actions that are less than desirable. No one is immune. It is part of being human. I believe this is why it says in Romans 3:23, ‘For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.’
So yes if Jesus is the measuring stick for goodness none of us quite measure up. No one can say they have never acted outside of God’s, or even their own standards of morality at some point in their lives. So our lives are not absent of some darkness. However, all of these scriptures were never spoken to divide people, but rather, to show we are all in the same boat together. .
There is even more to this though. We sometimes take a very negative view of humanity in general. However, if we take a look even into Genesis we see how God was involved with creation. What was His reaction to how things were made? To humanity and creation, He said, ‘It is good’.
Even humanity was created in the image of God. There is something of the divine nature within us. We have been created as free thinking conscious beings, having the ability to do good and evil.
It is claimed by some that because those without faith can live moral, good, and outstanding lives outside of God, it is a proof He does not exist. However, the fact that all of us, in and out of faith, are capable of goodness, having morality, shows there is a common bond between us all. Could it be that the divine imprint of goodness is in all of us. I have come to believe that this common bond has only strengthened my faith in a creator.
It feels good to do good. Have you ever considered why? If there is no God, no real moral code, no absolute right and wrong, where does this internal reaction come from? These thoughts, feelings, or emotions which seem to exist in most of humanity again show there is some connection between us all. They speak an incredible message to us.
Could it be possible that the scripture Ephesians 2:10, is the key.? ‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ If so, then, for a moment when we do good, we are stepping into the reason for our existence. When we do good we are experiencing a God moment. It is a taste of what God is, He is good. For these moments we are walking in what we were created to be. It is a taste of what the Kingdom of God is and our divine purpose.
So I believe that morality and goodness can exist without one having faith in God. However, it is not a proof of the non-existence of God. Rather it may be one of the biggest signs of how real He is. Even His goodness is not limited to those who believe, instead He is good to all. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. (Matthew 5:45b) For Christians to ever say those outside of faith cannot be blessed, or even used for His purposes, even His redemptive plans, they are denying scripture. This scripture even increases a believer’s responsibility to do good to everyone, not just those who agree with them because the one who they follow does.
Further discussed in new book – The Beautiful Christ