Thursday, January 18, 2018


Can we be good without God? This is the claim of atheism - that they don't need God to live a virtuous life.

However, right from the get-go, the atheist encounters insurmountable problems. Can they even talk coherently about what is good if the good and the virtuous do not exist outside of their own imagination?

Do they really believe that good, right and  wrong, and justice and injustice are simply mental constructs, which are socially created? Yes! They do not believe that these moral realities have any existence outside of our own thinking and biochemical reactions.

Consequently, our moral sentiments and conscience represent a fire-alarm bell that rings without a real external fire. They experience a guilt and a shame signifying nothing. However, if this bell does not serve to alert us to a real fire, why even bother listening to it? Instead, why not disable the annoying alarm!

This is exactly what many will do to their conscience through the use of alcohol and drugs. Others will resort to strange beliefs, even to denying freewill. If they can convince themselves that they couldn't have acted otherwise, they can soften their guilt and shame.

More commonly, Western culture resorts to a philosophy called "moral relativism," which claims that morality is merely relative to our tastes, desires, will, and evolving social norms. Consequently, moral truth and its divine Author cannot judge us because they really don't exist.

However, atheists insist that they do not need God to be good. However, without God, a real moral good cannot exist, just a multitude of human claims about what feels good to them.

It is like imagining that one has a family so that he can enjoy them in his imagination with any of the costs involved in having the real thing.

Last night, my friend and I braved our way into an atheist meeting where people were sharing about the good things that they were doing. When my turn came, I confessed that I am selfish and would have had little interest in living virtuously unless I was convinced that a moral law and a law-Giver actually exist. Otherwise, I would have taken a hammer to the fire-alarm.

I should have anticipated that this would be taken as a blow to the atheist solar plexus. Therefore, in unison, they insisted, "We do not need God to be good. Perhaps you need this myth, but we don't."

I tried to explain that without this conviction, our life, which we have devoted to virtuous living, will soon erode. Against their protests, I tried to explain:

  • Virtue is costly. Without an adequate rationale for such a sacrificial life, our selfish desires and fears will gradually prevail.

While we were riding home, my friend and I reflected on what we had seen and heard. We observed some commonalities. We all want community, goodness, and a meaningful life. However, we are pursuing them in such different ways that we live in opposing armed camps, without any reconciliation in sight.

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