Posted by Demian Entrekin
The question: whether or not there is good without God
I am going to take an empirical approach to the question. For this question, I am not interested in hypotheticals or scriptural interpretations. I am interested in familiar evidence, experiences that I have had myself.
What experiences have I had with good and what do those experiences tell me?
Since I have had no direct, personal experiences with any God, I will focus only on my experiences with good and see what those experiences tell me. And for the sake of the discussion, the idea of good is synonymous with moral.
After thinking about different personal experiences, I decided to draw on two connected events in my life to better examine the question of the good, the moral behavior.
1. Moving to Berkeley CA from Birmingham AL when I was a child
2. School desegregation in those two cities
I remember being bused across Berkeley in the 1970s to go to a school that was heavily African American. The bus crossed two major north-south streets that were both dividing lines of class and race. I also remember that it was a very controversial topic at the time. Nevertheless, the local government of Berkeley had decided to integrate schools in different neighborhoods because it was the right thing to do. It was the moral thing to do. School integration was a way to level the playing field for all. Leveling the playing field was the correct moral act.
The civic attitude toward school integration in Birmingham was altogether different. The governor of the state stood on the steps of public schools to block integration. The privileged white community was largely against school integration. It took federal action to change the behavior toward school integration. Armed men had to protect the few black kids who were sent to white schools.
This tells me that good, moral behavior is inherently regional. In one location, the collective idea of what is good can vary drastically from another geography.
When I went back to visit family in Birmingham as an adult, the idea of school integration had ceased to be a major issue. There remained a sizeable anti-integration constituency, but the public policy had in fact changed. Between 1963 and 2012, the idea of what was good, right, and moral had changed. It had been slow change but it had been change.
In Berkeley of 2012, the idea of school integration had also changed. People who had supported it were no longer sure it was practically effective, or at least perhaps not sufficient to improve education for all. But the question of its essential morality had become endemic, ingrained in the culture.
This led me to determine that the good, the moral, is also temporal. Over time the idea of good collective behavior can change in a particular region.
So, if the good, the moral, is both regional and temporal, then what does that say about the idea that God is a requirement for good? These two axes of morality suggest some consequences:
1. If good is regional, and God is required, then the relationship between God and good is also regional, and God is then inherently regional. “We have our God and they have theirs.” To me this fundamentally challenges the idea that one unifying God is required for good, and implies a polytheistic model for God and good.
2. If the good is temporal, and God is required, then the relationship between God and good is also temporal, and then God is inherently temporal. “Our God’s view of the good changes over time.” This idea fundamentally challenges the eternal nature of God, and makes God inherently inconstant in the evolving idea of what is good.
Certainly one could argue that God gives us the capacity to understand good, moral behavior and the rest is up to us. Or that God has given us the idea of good in some form of revelation or scripture, but that we simply fail to grasp it. This could explain why the good is both regional and temporal.
In both cases, however, God is no longer necessary for the application of moral behavior and is thus no longer a necessary participant in its application. The human world, in the scenario, would become something like God’s reality show, and both the world and God are made capricious, if not absurd.
Leave a comment and/or proceed to post #3: Sacrificium reflectit Bonum