Have you ever seen a billboard or talked with an atheist who has expressed the sentiment that they are “Good without God”? I have had many genial conversations with atheist, agnostics, and religious pluralist alike and this is a pretty common mindset. There are however a few fatal flaws in its logic that I would like to briefly discuss. In discussing this, I want to encourage my reader if they are an atheist that I am not writing this to attack them, and I want to encourage my Christian reader to remember that atheists are made in the image of God. I seek to make a threefold argument against the claim the idea that one can be “Good without God”. If you think you are fine without God, hear me out.
Before I begin I want to make sure that we properly understand the scope of this short blog post. I was listening to the BEMA podcast where they pointed out that inside the Church (the body of believers) we sometimes try to encourage one another by pointing out that those who do not know God but seem to be doing just fine are really not as happy as they pretend to be. We’ve got to stop this. People often are fake and do conceal their hurting so there is a strong element of truth in this but this is not a healthy way of approaching your faith. If you cannot see that life with the Lord is good, without reminding yourself that life without Him is worse than you most likely have a sad faith that a non-believer would not envy.
What is Good?
Now let’s think for a minute. What does it mean to be Good? Is that not an age-old question? Well as a Christian I would propose that if “Good” exist then it needs to be defined in an absolute sense. There is clear evidence for a Moral Law that is an absolute standard for our beliefs on right and wrong. I believe that this is clear evidence that we (as humans) are made in the image of a God that is rational, logical, and relation and that we reflect that in our nature whereas other creatures do not. Now there is a lot of pushback to this idea from all kinds of people, because people seem to believe that society dictates what is right and wrong. However, I believe that this “moral relativism” is a very popular and but ultimately poor opinion. A poor opinion that is believed by many Christians an atheist alike.
Why do we cling to Moral Relativism?
The truth of the matter is most of us adhere to moral relativism because if there is a moral standard, we do not want to be judged by it. I know I don’t want to be wrong nor judged. I think that we mostly think good-naturedly that it is respectful to not tell someone they are wrong. But did we not tell the Nazis they were wrong? Did we not make a fuss about Joseph Kony and his child soldiers? Did we not condemn Brock Turner for raping that woman in college? Did we not seek to end slavery? In many of these occasions, especially the first and last society at a time accepted these things, but nobody would argue they were good morally. A friend of mine the other day pointed out to me that the car in front of us had a bumper sticker that claimed the driver was a moral relativist. I told him that I wanted to get out of my car, open their door, take their wallet and accuse them of robbing me. If I went to court I would just inform the judge that the defendant doesn’t believe in a moral absolute and therefor can not justify accusing me of a crime.
This is True for Me, You, & all Society
If we do not have an absolute standard as individuals, we can not have one as a group of individuals (society). This is even more evident in the example I used just a second ago. If you do not believe that people have an absolute moral obligation to their fellow human, then what stops one’s spouse from having open affairs? What stops one’s doctor from blatantly lying, or their accountants to openly deny financial problems. We can’t desire perfect honesty from people without saying there is an absolute standard that is above that of humans and implanted in their heart. This can not be done through the process of Macro-evolution but instead this has to be done by God because blind, amoral, random, scientific mutations can not form rational, moral, specific thought processes.
1. Can an Atheist be GOOD
So, can an atheist be Good without God? Yes and no. They can’t be good without good being an actual real thing. But because the Moral law is written on their hearts and consciences they can act well and behave well. Most atheists are very kind, loving, caring people who reflect the nature of their creator that they try to deny. Side note: Christians we should all spend less time assuming atheist are evil and more people displaying the goodness of our God.
2. Can an Atheist BE without God?
Can an atheist exist without God? For an atheist to exist, there has to be a God. God is the uncaused first cause. He is the constant sustainer of life, who actualizes all things that we do. What does that mean? If all things are a cause and effect relationship then we need an uncaused first cause to sustain all things. In every second of every day, everything we do needs to be sustained. If I poke a ball with a stick into a string of 10 dominoes what caused everything to move? The dominoes are moved by the ball, which is moved by a stick which is moved by my hand which is moved by my muscles which is moved by neurons, which are moved by my brain… and it goes on until infinity? The process can’t go on unto infinity or it would never happen. Instead, there needs to be an uncaused first cause that is actualizing the potential for me to move at all. God sustains everything we do, though He does not approve of all that we do, but His goodness he sustains our free will decision to do it.
Think of life as a game for a minute. We can not move and make decisions without the coding and architecture of the game that allows us too. We are plugged in and sustained by a power source that allows us to exist. My main point here is that an atheist cannot be good without God. None of us could be good without God.
3. Can we trust the Opinions of an Atheist?
My last point is a small point that is still worth mentioning. If an atheist argues there is no absolute truth (not all do) than they not only are arguing for absolute truth but also for God’s existence. If that atheist turned to the scientific communities for an answer then they would turn most likely to Macroevolution. But they would have to explain how blind, amoral, random, scientific forces created rational being capable of determining there is absolutely no God. It seems to me, that you would need a LOT more faith to be an atheist than you need to be a Christian. Many have begrudgingly responded to these arguments, “okay well then I am a very skeptical agnostic.” Is that not progress already? If you are truly a person who pursues wisdom, truth, and intellect via doubting can I incline you to doubt your doubts about God and potentially seek God? As a Christian I personally have to doubt and study my views constantly to grow in my faith and intellect.
I have made a three-fold argument against Atheist claiming to be “Good without God”. First, they can’t be Good if there is no God. Second, that they can not even be, without God, and lastly, that they are incapable of being trusted as a rational authoritative source of intellect if they are blindly and randomly mutated creatures of chance. I do not mean to offend any in this, but merely to propose the truth. The absolute Truth is that there is a God who made us and that our Sin has separated us from Him. But through His love and perfect knowledge, He knew before we fell to Sin that we would do so. So he sent Jesus to take our punishment for our sin so that we could be forgiven and have a restored relationship with God. I encourage my readers to believe that Good News, or as I call it more often: The Gospel.
Almost every argument stated above is from the book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler. They are much more equipped to make these arguments and the book is a good read.