Sunday, April 19, 2009

Practical Theology

Proposed: That it may take more courage, more moral conviction, and more goodness to be a good person who believes in nothing - that this is it, that there is no god, that we are an accident of nature and physics that just happened to occur, not the end-game of some divine "plan" - than it takes to be a good person who believes in something (assuming that your something is spiritual/religious in nature).

Discuss.

11 comments:

Carmen said...

I like to think that's true. Two of the kindest most honest people I've ever known (my husband and my father) are not religious. My father wouldn't actually admit to not believing in a god but my husband does and I respect him for it. We believe its important to be kind and honest and moral people simply for the sake of being good people and raising good children.

My brother on the other hand is one of the more selfish, angry, mean-spirited people I've ever known and he's a christian who is constantly questioning everyone's beliefs. He cheats at simple games and is never generous. It's so frustrating to hear him preach and preen over being a christian when, in my eyes, he's a bad person.

strwberrryjoy said...

Believing in nothing is still something...it's nothing...the chicken or the egg question. Or culture is so heavily influenced by religions that even people who aren't religious themselves still are influenced by others.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a religious household, and that experience taught me that most religious people are hypocrits. I'm an atheist. I try to treat others as I would want to be treated, and I'm a particular champion of the underdog.

Cate said...

I don't think I believe in nothing -- I think I am a spiritual person -- but I am pretty much against religion. Well, not against, really, because I think people should feel free to practice religion if they want, and any religion, and also I like the community-coming-together aspect of church. But the reason I am against religion is because it seems to endorse the sheep mentality, that if a person is part of a certain religion, he or she is expected to just accept the whole doctorine that is handed to him or her and that person never has to figure out anything for her or himself. I recently watched "Religulous", Bill Maher, and although I think he was a little too rude in the movie, I agree wholeheartedly with his stance.

It seems to me that the reason the major religions have persevered is because they are so intolerant of other views. The religions/ways of life that were accepting of others's beliefs and were laid-back have gotten mowed down by the bulldozer of these very narrow, dogmatic religions. I don't think there is anything inherently more true about our current major religions than they were good at silencing their opposition.

It seems to me that religion is all about controlling people -- people's behavior, people's thoughts, people's MONEY. So I think it is definitely a brave person to stand against the tide of religion because the leaders of religion do not like the people who are out from under their control.

RobMonroe said...

(First: to your post - I think that is true in the US today.)

Argh. I hate that people look so harshly on faith because of religion. It is true, there are people out there that are Christian, Agnostic, Atheist, Muslim, Jewish... I could go on - that are either extremely intolerant, immoral and just plain A-Holes. On the other hand, there are people in all of those groups that believe that peace and love are foundational, and that their faith helps them focus on that and achieve their goals of living into that.

I am extremely pluralistic, meaning that while I am a Christian, I believe that there are many ways to get to God. Do I think that you have to believe in (any) God to be a good person? No, absolutely not.

On the other hand, I believe that my faith has made me a better person over the years. I have something to bring myself back to on a regular basis. I have the knowledge that other people believe as I do, and that is somewhat comforting.

I hate that a part of MY church is intolerant and downright hateful. I hate that I am subjected to people associating my beliefs with theirs.

At the same time, I love that people who share my faith started things that have done amazing things all over the world.

Hmm. Explaining my faith before checking my work email on a Monday Morning. Y'all know how to get a guy going over at the Pretty Babies!

Jen said...

You should check out part one of the movie "Zeitgeist". It offers some pretty crazy theories about several different topics, but I think addresses your question quite interestingly... let me know what you think. I think you can even find it/watch it online...

Charlotte said...

I do believe that those who don't believe in a higher power can be and are good, moral people who work to better the world. I know several of them. Not believing in a higher power doesn't make you a bad person. And believing in Christ or a higher power doesn't make you a good person. Your actions determine that.

I believe we are all children of God. Because I know this, I believe we have the desire to do good ingrained in us. What we do with this desire is entirely up to us, but that good feeling we get when we are kind to each other and make good, moral choices comes from somewhere. There's a reason for it. We just don't always realize or recognize its source.

But my own beliefs aside, I have met several people who subscribe to atheist, Zeitgeist, and Deist theologies and they are fantastic people. I don't know if this makes it harder or not since I haven't practiced those ideologies, but their goodness seems effortless. :0)

Cathie said...

I think it is difficult to be a morally upright person whether or not you have a faith in God. We all have the inclination for self-preservation. Sometimes preserving one's self will involve being part of something collectively good, and sometimes you'll end up being a selfish bastard.

I would agree with the majority of the commenters here that it doesn't matter whether or not you are religious. There are generally good people from all faiths. There are not so good people from all faiths.

Religion for the sake of ritual doesn't make you a good person. On the other hand, having a relationship with Christ does make you forgiven, when you have your not so good moments.

Obviously, I am a Christian. I am NOT perfect. Not even close. I swear, I lie, I hurt people. Shh, don't tell...there are many days I don't make my bed. (Sorry, I had to try and lighten things up a bit.) However, there isn't a believer or a NON-believer out there who doesn't do those things.

But, because I serve a forgiving God that gave up his son for me (and you), I am fogiven. If you are a good person (who still will do imperfect things) that doesn't believe, where does that leave you? Feeling guilt ridden? I don't know, because I am not in that place.

B.J. said...

Why would it? Because of getting a Go/No Go on a pleasant afterlife? If that's your theory, I would say no, it does not. At least in the protestant (specifically Presbyterian) faith, there is no requirement to be a good or moral person for salvation.

I suppose you could make the argument that it is easier to follow the good and moral example and teachings of an exalted and well-known person than it is to 'go it alone' per se or following the example/teachings of someone less well known (like a Jeremy Bentham or Immanuel Kant) but I would suggest marginally so.

Cathie said...

I wasn't referring to the afterlife, just the grappling with the offense. There's no finality. It's left hanging over your head. This is how I imagine it to be, anyway. Like I said, I am not familiar with that feeling because I've been walking with the Lord since a young age.

But, B.J., you do bring up a very valid point inthat the Bible does provide a specific set of moral codes to follow. Just as we have laws to follow, be they city, county, state, or federal. They create order and provide a foundation for cohesive living to avoid chaos. Having a moral code in the Bible just takes that one step further.

B.J. said...

Cathie, sorry, I should have made it clear that I was referring to Amy's original post postulating that it's harder to be good/moral without religion than with. My point was more that in the protestant faith (which I am most familiar) we believe that we are saved by God's grace and not by any measure of good deeds. You can be a jerk (or worse) for the majority of your life and that doesn't preclude a person from Heaven and therefore not the carrot at the end of the stick as some may believe.