He Knows if You’ve Been Bad or Good


(Photo by Stephanie Katz)

You had better watch out, you had better not cry and you had better not pout and in this article I’ll tell you why: If you don’t do good, and are therefore wicked, you’re going to be punished for all of eternity in a lake of fire!

But you’re in luck.

If you remain righteous and accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior you will be gifted with eternal life! (Matthew 25:46, John 3:36) Err.. wait, are we talking about Jesus or Santa? Well.. whatever.  Eternal life and presents are better than eternal hellfire and coal, right? That’s some pretty enticing incentive to be a good person, right? Well… that does make you a good person.. right? Not exactly, but that is what too many Christians believe makes you a good person, or at least a good Christian.. which is the same thing to many of them. Many Christians believe that without God, you simply cannot be good. For example, the Christian Apologist William Lane Craig argues that if there is no God then we have no foundation for objective morality. In this article, I will hopefully demonstrate the opposite, that even with God we have no foundation for objective morality because God is irrelevant and can even push us to be the opposite end of the moral continuum.

So, let us talk about something that is actually moral (or good): generosity. Generosity is the habit of giving freely without expecting anything in return. Perhaps the argument could be posed that a Christian who actually follows the teachings of Jesus will feel more of an obligation to be generous than someone who has a worldview that does not glorify generosity and charity. The problem is this: If a generous act is going to be rewarded, and the person acting it out knew it, was it truly generous? How can a truly altruistic act really be met out if a selfish goal is met in the process? How can someone completely remove his or herself from thinking of the rewards and gains he or she is promised while attempting to give freely? I would simply posit that one cannot. If one cannot, he or she also cannot be truly generous.

If a dude does a generous act because he believes he will be rewarded if he does, punished if he doesn’t, or needed to be commanded to do so by some higher authority, the virtue of the person is nonexistent. So a question we are left with is: Can a Christian actually be generous? Virtuous? Good?

What is left then? How can we be generous? For one thing, seemingly being generous is not the same as being generous. If someone does something “generous” for the sake of being recognized as a generous person then he isn’t really being generous at all.

Even if the action is generous, his mindset is actually self-serving which is antonymous.

That being said, I’d posit that only people with an atheistic mindset can truly be generous in contrast to the believers of most theistic religions, because they can actually do something generous without the thought of an omniscient and omnipotent being watching and judging their action. If a Christian was generous without any consideration of God’s grace or wrath, then he or she would have done so in a purely atheistic (or unrelated to God) mindset. This is to say that even if a Christian person who does something that is generous, he didn’t do it because of his Christian-ness. If he took his Christian beliefs into account when doing the generous act, then it seems impossible that he himself is actually generous by the very definition of the wordgiving freely without expecting anything in return.

It does not matter if it’s the promise of eternal hellfire (or eternal reward) by God, the dread of coal (or hope for presents) in your stocking left by Santa, or the fear of looking bad (or good) by other people; if you do a good action for any reason other than the good itself, you are simply not being good.

So, you had better be good for goodness sake!

Merry Christmas!

2 comments on “He Knows if You’ve Been Bad or Good

  1. […] He Knows if You’ve Been Bad or Good (December 25, 2011) – This Christmas-themed article and its followup have been challenged relentlessly both on and off the internet as they both attempt to advance the contentious position that, using generosity as an example of virtue, “only people with an atheistic mindset can truly be generous in contrast to the believers of most theistic religions, because they can actually do something generous without the thought that an omniscient (possibly even omnipresent) being watching and judging their action.” […]

  2. […] seems that in recent years a similar distortion of the holiday spirit (it’s about being good for goodness sake, right?) has taken hold of Christmas in the United States—though, it is a terror of a different nature: […]

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