1The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.2The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Psalm 14:1-2
Based on this text which theists love to lob at atheists every chance that they get, it seems that the religious idea of good and the secular idea of good are defined differently. According to this verse and many others like it man is inherently evil due to his so called inherited “sinful nature.” The Bible teaches that we have a dual nature composed of the desires of the flesh and the desires of the spirit. According to this our spirit knows its creator and longs to be reunited with Him. But our flesh rebels against God and refuses to submit to his laws.
5Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8
The word spirit is capitalized in this text because it is referring to the Holy Spirit which according to the scriptures will lead you to all truth and help you to overcome the desires of the flesh. In order to get a better grasp of these concepts in context I recommend that you read the entire chapter 8 of the book of Romans carefully.
Jesus actually is made to confirm this with the words put in his mouth by the author of Mark.
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. Mark 10:18
Good: virtuous, right, commendable good person> <good conduct> (2) : kind, benevolent <good intentions>
The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines good as most members of society do. In reference to people a good person would be someone who by society’s standards obeys the laws of the land, is kind, helpful to others, and at times is considered a role model to those he comes in contact with. A good person is someone who we would look up to and would want to emulate in our own lives. I am an atheist but I tend to do good deeds quite often without expecting nothing in return. I do these deeds because I understand the human condition and know that life is unpredictable and at times cruel.
I believe that everyone is susceptible to picking up bad habits but how we handle them when they show up in our lives determines where we end up. At some point or another in our lives we have all been exposed to drugs, alcohol, or have been asked to partake in some form of criminal activity by bad acquaintances posing as friends. But as individuals we have to take responsibility for all the decisions and actions that we take in this life. You don’t need a god to tell you that murder, armed robbery, rape, pedophilia, etc. is wrong. Our society, culture, and laws of the land help us determine what is right and wrong. Unless you are some kind of psychopath or sociopath then you should be able to learn and understand the concept of morality. It has nothing to do with gods.
Psychopath: A person with an antisocial personality disorder, especially one manifested in perverted, criminal, or amoral behavior.
Sociopath: people displaying anti social behavior which is mainly characterized by lack of empathy towards others that is coupled with display of abnormal moral conduct and inability to conform with the norms of the society.
History is our best teacher regarding the origins of morals. For instance one of our greatest taboos is cannibalism. We think of cannibals as devoid of morals and we also think of cannibalistic behavior as abhorrent. But history has shown us that there were ancient civilizations where cannibalism was perfectly normal and in fact expected. You don’t need a degree in psychology or psychiatry to see through observation alone that morals are learned and not inherent.
While many Jews, Christians, and Islamist insist that morals come from the gods they are quite often betrayed by their own natures. We hear about the misconduct or even sometimes the criminal activities of the religious on the news all the time! Christians claiming to have the Holy Spirit which according to the scriptures is supposed to help you become more spiritual and to reign in immoral thoughts and desires seems to have a hard time doing so! There are several possible reasons why people act the way they do.
One of the many reasons that in my opinion there are good and bad people is that they are either mentally ill, have suffered greatly as children and were taught abhorrent behavior, or come from cultures where certain activities like grown men marrying minors is commonplace. Notice that I did not add the final option to that list: the devil made them do it. The reason for that is because as an atheist I take responsibility for my own actions. If I commit a crime against someone it is only logical that I will soon find myself before a court of the law and would have to fulfill whatever punishment that court and the laws of the land impose upon me.
I don’t know about you but it actually feels good to do good deeds. I am a regular monthly blood donor in my city and I get this feeling of satisfaction knowing that my blood might be used to save someone’s life somewhere. I feel great every time I help a blind or elderly person cross the street. Or when you are able to give a homeless person a meal and are rewarded with the most beautiful smile of gratitude. I do good deeds and try to be a good person simply because I am a compassionate person and it feels good to be good.
Like most people I am no angel, and I have been bad. I once resisted arrest during a domestic dispute and an officer was hurt trying to restrain me. Afterwards I felt like shit and thought to myself that I could have handled that a lot better than I did. But just as good deeds are rewarding bad deeds also have their consequences. I picked up a felony assault charge in the second degree, had to serve four months in Rikers Island, was put on five years of probation, and was forced to undergo a twenty six week domestic violence counseling program which cost me out of pocket $35 dollars a class! Finally, I had to pay a $210.00 incarceration fee when I was released. Whoever said that crime doesn’t pay was wrong; it pays quite well. The consequences of stupidity can affect the rest of your life.
It’s ironic that believers and the Bible insist that God is the source of all morality and as Jesus said in the quote earlier only God is good. Anyone who took the time to read through the Bible from cover to cover would beg to differ. God murders many, punishes people with infertility, poisonous snakes, fiery hail, flood, and even utilizes the earth to swallow up many! How is this behavior considered moral and good? Man has shown himself to be more moral than the biblical and Koranic depictions of God could ever be. In fact by human standards God is a most immoral, unjust, and terrifying being! If God was to be a role model for humanity and we were to imitate his deeds against man we would eventually annihilate each other or we would have to build a hell of a lot more prisons than we currently have.
I consider myself a good person because I have compassion for my fellow man and I prefer the benefits of being good over the consequences of being bad. I don’t need the threat of a stalking deity looming over me to make me do good deeds and be on my best behavior. I don’t need the empty and ridiculous promises of eternal life to motivate me to being a moral and responsible person.
2The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Psalm 14:2-3
This is one of the many things that the Bible and many other religious texts get wrong. Despite what you may think the world is full of good people as well as bad.
Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures. All word definitions and other sources are linked to directly.