Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Be Good? What's That Mean?

It's Christmas season, and those goodwill-toward-men folks over at the American Humanist Association have decided to launch an advertising campaign focusing on their belief that the reason for the season is really a farce. With endearing slogans on billboards and buses like "Yes Virginia, there is no God," they are seeking equal time and attention in this season of nominal Christian recognition by the masses. No big surprise there.

But one of their main ads really caught my attention, and seems to point out a major flaw in the humanist philosophy. The headline on the ad states: "No God? No Problem! Be good for goodness sake." Well actually, I think there is a problem here, by removing God from the equation of goodness. First of all, the AHA's assumption here seems to be that people have some motivation to "be good", to live and behave in some morally correct manner. And what then is their stated reason for people to "be good"? For the sake of being good, apparently. The humanist view seems to be that people want to behave in a morally good manner, for the sake of being good, for the apparent benefits that being good provides.

But on what basis do humanists determine what is morally good? No God? Big problem defining goodness. The etymology of the very English word "good" is based on its roots in Anglo-Saxon as a euphemism for God. Indeed, the entire idea of good and goodness has always been defined, at least in western culture, by the nature and character of God. So if one removes God from the equation, what basis will you use to define what is good? Seems to me that the AHA is dealing with terms that they have no basis for defining.

Of course, look at the definition on the poster they give for humanism: "the idea that people can be good without a belief in God." Interesting. But it seems we're back to the same definitional issue: what do you mean by "good" if it isn't referenced to some transcendent and ultimate moral authority and standard?

This is where humanism, atheism, agnosticism, and any other ism that leaves the one true God out of the picture has no ability to speak in moral terms, in language of good and evil. For when you remove the great Lawgiver from moral discourse, you are left with only relative assumptions and personally or socially contructed norms of right and wrong, which no one will ever be able to come to agreement on. Yes Virginia, there is a God, and He alone is good and sets the standard for goodness.

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