Busses in Washington DC over Christmas 2008 were decorated with this slogan, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.” The American Humanist Association are funding a similar advertising campaign to the the one launched in London by their British counterparts a few months ago.
It’s a legitimate question, though not a new one. But it has already been answered conclusively. The answer is unquestionably correct but I would be a hypocrite if I called the question tedious – every generation asks, and every generation is answered, whether they like the answer or not (more accurately it’s about every fifth generation that asks and is answered).
So this generation is asking, like so many generations before, “can we not be good simply for the sake of goodness?” And to them is answered, like every generation before. “No, it seem plain that we cannot“.
If the question was asked a little differently “may we not be good simply for the sake of goodness?” then the question is answer is completely different. “Yes, we certainly may.”
And if it was asked “must we not be good simply for the sake of goodness?” then the answer also is “Yes, we must. Good for the sake of goodness is not optional, whether you are a Hindu or an Evolutionary Atheist.”
But we cannot do it… can we? Is there anyone anywhere who can say that they have been good, simply for the love and recognition of goodness for all of their lives?… Anyone? No? Not even one in all the thousands of years of humanity?
Oh dear. How sad. We may, and we must but we can’t. We are unable!
It’s not just humble to say, “I’m not really a good person;” it is completely truthful; no one is really a good person.
A more legitimate question, one that would show that we are actually progressing in our thought since Job and learning from our fathers, would be “Why can’t we simply be good for goodness sake?” What is it that prevents us from doing what we may legitimately do, and what we must necessarily do?
If it was our genes that were driving us (ie: survival of the species over the individual) why then do they drive us so selfishly? It is bees and ants that live for the sake of their species… not humans, not by a long way!
By default a human lives for his own sake, not for the sake of any universal goodness.
And living for his own sake spoils him in the true sense of the word. It makes him fat, and sick, and socially inept, it kills him and it will eventually kill his species. Moral development is the first development in a child… all other development is dependent on moral development. And it is not natural for a child to develop morally. I’ve yet to have to teach a child to lie or to steal, they do those things by default.
Fred Edwords, the American Humanist Association’s director of communications said at a press conference: “Our message is that all of us can have moral values as a natural result of who we are as a species and who we have become as a civilization. Each one of us knows what it means, generally, to be ethical.”
He is spot on about the fact of the knowledge of good and evil, that we “…have moral values…“, but we don’t act on them; but then why don’t we Fred?
Fred, the question you asking has been answered before, we’re going round in circles Fred, lost in the mist. Our fathers, if we just read what they wrote, would tell us that they passed that bush before, many many times.
Could it be that Fred is wrong about where we get moral values from?
And it turns out that he is wrong. He says that “…all of us can have moral values as natural result of who we are as a species and who we have become as a civilisation…”
We have the moral values all-right, what we lack is moral action, we are unable to consistently practice the values that we have. And the moral values did not come naturally any more than a mowed lawn comes naturally. the grass grows naturally, if it is mowed it has been mowed by an act of discipline; not nature.
We got our moral values from hunting, arresting and controlling the part of us that is naturally intelligent.
Natural intelligence is just another word for chaos. Discipled intelligence is something quite different. The Humanist is merrily sailing the troubled seas, made troubled by the acts of humans, on a boat that he did not make by himself that he thinks “came to him naturally“.
Lte’s move on – for goodness sake – We have to ask the next question now Fred: Why… Why don’t we do what we may and what we must and what we ought to do? What is wrong with us?
Now there is not a single Humanist argument that has even attempted to answer this real question yet?
It is a question about origins, causality; and the Humanist is not interested in causality. The Humanist is interested in the Humanist. He crosses his intellectual legs whenever there is a hint of Socratic penetration. His thought has not yet reached a climax, let alone a conception! He has a virgin mind because he thinks it can only gratify itself, that any external stimulation is some kind of rape.
Excuse me if you think I’m being crude but the illustrations of divine relationally are so warm and stark and all around us, so inviting and real, that I get a little upset when we become so freaking frigid! It’s about time we responded to a suitable suitor. Pretty soon humanity will be too old to marry, the knowledge of good and evil is ageing us – I think it’s the ‘free radicals’ that cause the wrinkles!
The statement itself gives away the intellectual frigid virginity of the humanist. “Just be good for goodness’ sake.”
What, I ask, is goodness doing with a sake? Why not be good for the sake of rabbits or moons? They are at least tangible and are much more likely to have a sake of their own, what or who is goodness that we act on its bidding and for its purpose?
A sake is a purpose, or a cause. Persons can have them. They are especially obvious when contrasted with the blind but powerful forces of nature which have no sake of their own, no defence; and they can be bent to anyone’s will or purpose if they are strong enough.
The rudder on a ship is a good illustration, no-one breaks an ethical code by steering a ship against the wind and currents. The ocean is not offended at being crossed, but try and cross a person! The ocean is indifferent because the ocean has no sake of its own. It may have a purpose beyond itself, there may be a reason for it’s preservation but that reason is bigger than merely the continued existence of the ocean.
But we are to be good, according to the humanist, for the purpose merely of abstract goodness?!? I am tempted by the Humanist, to write goodness with a capital G… in fact I think I shall… Goodness, there that’s better. At least it makes sense now: “Just be good for Goodness’ sake.”
But then it does make the whole slogan a little redundant : “Why believe in a god? Just be good for Goodness’ sake.” I get the distinct impression of having been here before – maybe it’s genetic memory.
All the American Humanist Association has achieved, in their atheistic campaign, is to swop the capital G’s, they have passed the proverbial pronoun the way one ‘passes the buck’; and they didn’t even get it right on their own, I had to help Fred with his punctuation!