FAQs about the Faith
Can one be good without God?
That’s probably the wrong question to start with. Here is a more fundamental question:
Can one even define good without God?
“Good,” without God, is subjective, relative, and non-universal. There is no way to define it, measure it, judge anything based on it, or expect any ultimate outcomes from it. Without God, “good” is an arbitrary term with no boundaries, foisted by a majority upon others who may or may not agree. Yet it would not ultimately matter in the least.
How can there be “good” without God? Without God, “good,” like free will, would only be an illusion. The material brain would be fooling us into thinking that there is a metaphysical reality that is “good,” but this would be false. If there is nothing beyond this material world, no reality that transcends brute materialism, then “good” cannot be a concept that transcends materialism, for it would have to be based entirely in raw material. Note, for example, what atheist Michael Ruse had to say about this:
“Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth.”
“Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, it [ethics] is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, to a Darwinian evolutionist it can be seen that such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction and has no being beyond or without this."
“Morality is an ephemeral product of the evolutionary process, just as are other adaptations. It has no existence or being beyond this, and any deeper meaning is illusory.” (“Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics: Are They in Harmony?” Zygon, vol. 29, no. 1, March 1994, pp. 5-24)
Without God, “good” has no foundation beyond the whims and desires of its adherents. Morality has no existence or deeper meaning. It has no ultimate intelligent foundation and no intelligently guided goals. Whether a person were “good” or “bad” would ultimately be irrelevant, for there would be no final reckoning for the way that anyone lived. The good and the bad, as arbitrarily defined by those who fancied themselves in these categories, would wind up in exactly the same place and with the very same outcome. One hundred years from now, those who fought for the good, as they saw it, and those who lived for the bad, as society saw it, would be identical to each other. And neither would or could care.
“Good” was just an illusion that aided in survival, but what about the evil? If “good” evolved as an aid to survival, then why did the bad evolve? Remember, those very same evolutionary processes that gave us the “good” also gave us the “bad.” Wouldn’t both have developed for the same reasons?
Can one be good without God?
Without God, people can be good in the sense of doing “good” things (however defined), but those same ones cannot define the good in any objective, absolute, or universal sense. Nor can they, by their own subjective definitions, give solid, foundational reasons why anyone ought to be good.
No doubt unbelievers will disagree. They have to disagree. But will they, in their disagreement, supply the foundation for goodness? Will they provide something that is objective, absolute, or universal? Will they be able to articulate reasons that transcend the brute materialism that they believe encompasses their existence? Will anyone be around in the end to care?