If There Is No God, Why Be Good?

I have said in the past that I do not like Dawkins very much and I stand by that statement. I think that his attitude does more harm than good. I could be wrong here, so please let me know would you think.
Anyway, here is an excerpt from the book “The God Delusion” that I found interesting while I was reading last night. You might be wondering why I am reading a book written by someone I dislike. The answer is that his status as a jerk does not detract from the validity of his thoughts. 🙂

“If there is no God, why be good? Posed like that, the question sounds positively ignoble. When a religious person puts it to me in this way (and many of them do), my immediate temptation is to issue the following challenge: ‘Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God’s approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment? That’s not morality, that’s just sucking up, apple polishing, looking over your shoulder at the great surveillance camera in the sky, or the still small wiretap inside your head, monitoring your every move, even your every base thought.’As Einstein said, ‘If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.’ Michael Shermer, in The Science of Good and Evil calls it a debate stopper. If you agree that, in the absence of God, you would ‘commit robbery, rape, and murder’, you reveal yourself as an immoral person, ‘and we would be well advised to steer a wide course around you.’ If, on the other hand, you admit that you would continue to be a good person even when not under divine surveillance, you have fatally undermined your claim that God is necessary for us to be good.” (Chapter 6, p. 226)


17 responses to “If There Is No God, Why Be Good?

  1. I am “good” because that is what I know. It is something I have learned. The knowledge did not require a deity.

  2. Very interesting article. I think the confusion stems from a continued misunderstanding of what “God’s approval” means. God’s “approval” is Life. Being good, nice, loving, and helpful earns “God’s approval”.

    Yes, that’s why I do it. Being good leads to life for mankind. If it didn’t I would be as cut-throat as possible… because that’s what earns Ferraris.

  3. Very good post. The issue at hand is one that divides Theist and Atheist the most. Both sides seem to forget not all Theist are good and not all Atheist are bad. The debate would be simple (and over) if this were always true.

    I also have problems with blanket statements on new-borns, such as “All babies are innocent until corrupted by society.” and the counterpart to that “all babies must be taught right from wrong, else they fall into chaos.”

    Mankinds moral values comes from a lot of things. Genes, enviroment, teaching, interaction, and society.

    Man can come out good sometimes without God; but with God (Jesus); the ground rules are already laid out. Stop. I know what your thinking (((so why aren’t all Christians good?))) maybe I’ll run with that post at my blog site.

    “Lov’n the Lord & Liv’n the Life…”

  4. I thought about this juicy tidbit a little more, Zeb, and friends. It was the Einstein quote that was intriguing. The Dawkins part was funny enough, but I can see how it can easily be accepted due to misunderstanding, but the Einstein quote… that’s awesome. More of the quote really sets it up. 😀

    “The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.”

    He even puts it in his statement, “…but through striving after rational knowledge”… hilarious

    In case the point is still being missed… who in their right mind would NOT act according to the response the action has generated throughout time? That’s why it’s so important to study history, right?… so we don’t repeat the mistakes?… Yikes… I’m a little scared of the person that doesn’t react to the positive or negative consequences of his/her actions. That’s some serious lack of “rational knowledge.”

    Even funnier is when you hear all the “delusional” name-calling thrown around. Webster describes delusion as “an inability to distinguish between what is real and what only seems to be real” or “a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact”

    What could be more delusional than persistently continuing to act a certain way, even in light of such overwhelming evidence? Whether a person believes in God or not, the consequences of our actions remain the same. Zeb, I have hope for you. 😀 I think you are far more reasonable than Dawkins, or Einstein apparently(based on this single quote).

  5. MenAfterGod.com

    So Zeb, what do you think is at the end of the tunnel? Is it just “snap”? If atheists are right then no judgment will follow. So why not live it up now? What’s to lose?

    If Christians are right then somebody is going to be disappointed, some shocked, and me vindicated.

    I’m not scared of death, either way I win. But even though I try to follow Jesus, some may say I’m not a good example of a Christian. That’s OK I get better everyday.

    “Lov’n the Lord & Liv’n the Life…”

  6. Hi glen,

    I have no clue what happens after death. Nobody really does. We all just guess. Maybe there is nothing, maybe there is something. If there is something what makes you think you have it right? You say either way you are safe, but what if the Mayans had it right and you are just pissing off the real god? There are millions of gods in the world, just because you believe you are right does that make it so? The Mayans believed they were right too. So maybe you are not so safe after all. 🙂

    As for the question of “living it up”, do you really think that people need a god to be good? Really?
    Do you need the threat of judgment to behave, Glen? If you do are you really a moral person or are you just a scared one?

  7. Do you really need to experience the pain of a bad decision to avoid it?

    The “threat” of the consequence from a bad decision works for me…most of the time. I’m stubborn, though… I typically have to experience it first. Sorry, I’ll butt out. 😉

  8. Bradley ~ You can talk here any time you like. 🙂
    Of course I have not idea what you are talking about… again…

    Everyone ~ It all comes down to the fact that morals predate religion, the bible and the concept of gods. Morals are in no way a purely human function, other animals of their own sets of morals too. To claim that without GOD we are amoral or immoral just silly. Open your eyes and look around.

    I think I will need to address this from a different angle in a new post. 🙂
    Have a good night.

  9. It’s highly possible I make zero sense at all. 😀

    I’m looking forward to your new, personal, angle. Quoting nonsense that reveals an elementary misunderstanding makes about as much sense as I make. 😉

  10. I read about half of The God Delusion in order to be conversant about atheism because my husband is an atheist. Dawkins was pretty scientific and made many valid, logical points that made me think, such as the one you cited above.

    Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that the question of whether or not there is a god is moot. Some people experience god, others don’t. I have no argument with either side. Either way, whatever helps a person live a good life with good morals is a good thing.

    But, I think a lot of factors: culture, society, family, environment, religion etc. influence the morals and values one establishes.

  11. I disagree …, no question

  12. @Glen, I really like your response, of course as a human being we have the need to grasp that, “our way is the right way.” But if one has this thought then one also must be receptive to the possibility that, “my way may be completely rubbish.” For the thought that one is right cannot exist without the opposition, that is the perceptions of duality. Two sides of the same coin, they aren’t separate.


    If we are talking about judgment, and some creator judging you at the end of the bodies life, then you will be waiting an eternity to be judged. Instead think of it as being judges at every moment of your life right now, you react to something and you face a consequence, is this not judgment in its area of the word, although it isn’t actually judgment at all, this implies that there is a something that judges. When the only judgment you really face is your own. There is no separate.

    For convenience of the bible, it says that you have eternal life now, not at some distant time. As long as one doesn’t see Truth (or God/Awareness/consciousness) whatever you want to call it, you will always misunderstand, you will always put the “me” subjective thought into the playing field which means you’ll always think “I’m right and your wrong” in front of others. With this, one can never be receptive to the truth. Whether you believe one thing or another what you are is undeniable regardless of whether you know it or not. Everything else is a fantasy that you choose to create.

    You’ve never been separated from what you are, something more divine from the body, the bible even states that the body is only a vessel, you have no need for it after it transitions into this thing called death. Death and Life aren’t separated either, again the same coin. Or to put it another way, the cloud in the sky, or the wave in the ocean. 🙂

    Best Regards.

  13. I’ve spent most of my adult life without faith. This was a logical decision. I believe in evolution and science (many a debate with Zeb in years past. I’ve dabbled in Buddhism, Taoism, and some Pagan beliefs. I have a decent understanding of the moral lessons these faiths / philosophies teach. But, As I grow older, I find myself listening more to my heart. And it leads me back to a faith in God (note the capital “G”). I am not as well read as some of you who have clearly stated your case for the non existence of God and the debate over morality, and should we be good if there is no God. But my heart tells me a different story. I “am” because of God. I am a child of God. And I will live the remainder of my life striving to be a better Christian. Will I be perfect? No. Will I falter? Yes. But I will keep trying to live my life as a good person and a Christian.

    With Kind Regards and respect,

    Brother Jamis

  14. @Jamis

    And that is what’s been worth looking into. I respect you greatly for that. The more you look from the heart, the more the answer becomes alive. The thing about organized religion (including Atheism) seems to be that it goes so far with the human being but at some point, you have to go beyond what people are trying to tell you, to stand on your own two feet instead of using a crutch, so have a REAL relationship with God, and if it feels genuine to you, then that’s all that matters, keep following the ol heart bone! 🙂

    Atheism is like anything else, it’s just a silly escape on the other side of the spectrum, it doesn’t mean that it’s different, its just like the swinging of a pendulum, it swings from one end to the other, there is really no difference, you’re just on the other side instead of the one you started but its still part of the pendulum isn’t it? 😉

  15. All gods are imaginary, so no need to worry. I am in no way offended or bothered by Richard Dawkins. In fact, it was “The God Delusion” that caused me to proclaim out loud that I have always been atheist.

    I am a 7 on the Richard Dawkins scale, which means I am as atheist as a person can get. But make no mistake, I am one of the nicest people you will ever meet. I have always been a nice, caring, compassionate person. It’s who I am. And I have no need to consider that any gods, or their rules or books ar required for me to be a good person.

    There are no gods, there never have been any gods, and there never will be any gods, so the entire topic is an exercise in delusional beliefs, versus rational, clear thinking, and observable reality. Those who cling to the belief truly know, deep down, that none of it is supported or corroborated outside fo their particular church, doctrine, or book. And not one single human has ever communicated with any of the imaginary deities, outside of their own head.

    I have personally been told be some believers that they would kill a baby if their god commanded them to. and even when I told them that this has already happened multiple times, in modern society, they agreed that the person was crazy. Somehow, they felt they were exempt from that level of crazy due to the belief that they would be following the true god! Incredulous! Indeed.

    Be good, no gods required!

  16. If God exists, then this life is a minor transient in eternity. If you are good, you will spend life in Heaven and if you are bad then, Hell. If you believe in God, then this is the reason to be good. You cannot question the morality of this situation because, if you believe in God, the logic cannot be wrong.

    If God does not exist, then this life is still a transient but that is all. This means that this life, to any individual, is everything, since there is nothing else. It is rational, therefore, to pursue those things that enhance your existence and pleasure, so as to have the best possible life that is practicably available to you.

    Being objective, therefore, there is absolutely no need to engage in any altruistic behavior unless it is going to enhance your transient existence. If you are altruistic, it is for the selfish reason that that is what you want to do with your life – but that is alright because it makes you happy.

    The only reason, therefore, to be nice to other people is for some gain either emotional or materialistic.

    No – I am afraid to admit, that without God, there really is no need to be altruistic or good at all (excepting if it is clearly in your interest)

  17. NotTheSecondComing

    This is a year old post and you miss the point. No one can show you where you error in your logic because you will refuse to see it. ZTR is dead. Move on. Peace.

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