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Faith / Good Works
08-04-2009, 10:30 AM
Post: #1
Smile Faith / Good Works
My religion teaches you are judged not only on your faith but on your works and so depending on how good you are are in this life and the next determines their place in heaven
I understand other christian religions teach that works come though faith and so you are judged on faith alone.

Martin Luther said "No one can be good and do good unless God's grace first makes him good; and no one becomes good by works, but good works are done by him who is good"

by this logic atheists cannot do good or be good?, and is this a common held belief by christians?
and if atheists (or non-christians) cannot be good then why do they so often appear to be doing so?


P.S i'm sorry if this seems like a stupid/insolent question, its entirely possible i could of misunderstood completely and also please don't take this as an attack on anyone's religion, i'm just interested
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08-04-2009, 11:08 AM
Post: #2
RE: Faith / Good Works
(08-04-2009 10:30 AM)Heather_1989 Wrote:  by this logic atheists cannot do good or be good?, and is this a common held belief by christians?
and if atheists (or non-christians) cannot be good then why do they so often appear to be doing so?

What it comes down to is how one defines "good".

Have you heard of Euthyphro's Dilemma? It is generally presented in the following question:

"Is something good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?"

How you answer that question says a lot about your definition of "good".

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08-04-2009, 12:16 PM
Post: #3
RE: Faith / Good Works
Or, as Nixon put it, "When the President does something it's not illegal."

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08-04-2009, 04:05 PM
Post: #4
RE: Faith / Good Works
(08-04-2009 11:08 AM)MerryAtheist Wrote:  
(08-04-2009 10:30 AM)Heather_1989 Wrote:  by this logic atheists cannot do good or be good?, and is this a common held belief by christians?
and if atheists (or non-christians) cannot be good then why do they so often appear to be doing so?

What it comes down to is how one defines "good".

Have you heard of Euthyphro's Dilemma? It is generally presented in the following question:

"Is something good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?"

How you answer that question says a lot about your definition of "good".

i would say god commands it because its good, so basically if christians answer this question in that way it means they believe you can be good regardless of god?
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08-04-2009, 06:42 PM (This post was last modified: 08-04-2009 06:47 PM by Parousia.)
Post: #5
RE: Faith / Good Works
(08-04-2009 04:05 PM)Heather_1989 Wrote:  i would say god commands it because its good, so basically if christians answer this question in that way it means they believe you can be good regardless of god?

Depends on the Christians. Catholics, among others, hold that there is such a thing as natural law (created by God of course and imbued into human beings). Anyone who obeys what he/she truly believes is right is eligible for salvation. Catholics call it Baptism of Desire.

I was raised Catholic but dropped that long ago. However I have remained a student of religion all my life. Not owing any obligation to a particular faith, I find a somewhat different meaning in various areas of the Bible than others.

To summarize my viewpoint on this subject (that is, what I think the Bible says):

1. When Paul talks about faith versus works, e.g., in Romans and Ephesians, what he means by 'works' is in fact Jewish laws and rituals, which are not to apply to gentile converts.

2. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus sets forth very clearly that eternal life results from moral living and most especially from charity.

3. Faith means belief that Jesus has told us rightly how to live (morally and charitably) and that there will be a judgment of everyone who ever lived to mete out reward and punishment as deserved. It seems to me that anyone who acts like they believe this is in the “in crowd” whether they heard of Jesus or not.


If you what to know more about these ideas (and counterarguments), here is a whole thread. (No, I do NOT want to revive it. It is just for reading.)
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08-04-2009, 07:33 PM
Post: #6
RE: Faith / Good Works
thanks that seems to make some sense

yeah that thread pretty much covers it, sorry for starting a new one
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08-04-2009, 08:32 PM
Post: #7
RE: Faith / Good Works
(08-04-2009 07:33 PM)Heather_1989 Wrote:  thanks that seems to make some sense

yeah that thread pretty much covers it, sorry for starting a new one

Sorry? Why? This one is asking a different question. To which there has been too little variety of answers. Are you listening out there, people?
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08-04-2009, 09:10 PM
Post: #8
RE: Faith / Good Works
Well from me you have the idea of societal morality. Humans are social animals. We build families, tribes, communities, and nations. We always want to expand our society, and as technology allows we do so. This leads us to accept certain elements of morality, not because of any external law imprinted on our souls, but because these morals are necessary for running a society.

In a small group, such as a tribal unit, or a despotism, you would have a leader. Obedience to this leader was a prime virtue. In addition you have certain morals, such as "do not kill" and "do not steal", that are required for a society to survive. These morals could be (and were) ignored by the leader, and those they designate.

As the community expands and wealth became greater, others would become powerful, and normally they would form their own small tribes or monarchies. However, wanting to maintain power and wanting to create a larger community, humans instead invented ideas of nobility. Now you had a monarchy. The peasants reported to their leige lord, who reported to his leige lord, and on up until you reached the king. There were still morals like "do not kill" and "do not steal", but the leader could no longer violate them with impunity. Now he had to be respectful of the life, property, and indeed comfort of his fellow nobles, who were capable of mounting a rebellion against him. He had to have a good reason to violate these morals.

Then people became better educated, and the standard of living continued to rise. This leads to people being more demanding, and you began to see the advent of representation. The leader now can still violate the ideals of "do not kill" and "do not steal", but only by going through a legal system, a jury of peers, and the approval of citizens. Thus, the concept of justice and modern morality.

Now I'm just using killing and stealing as an example, but all concepts of "morality" can be explained by following the foibles of society. As the people become more educated, civilization improves because people think about things, and come up with ideas like "inalienable rights". Occasionally people will come up with this in surprising ways, such as the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) which practiced representative government with a high level of personal rights in pre-Columbian America.

So, clearly by this you do not need god to establish morality, because morality is an ever-changing concept based on the society you are in, and the education level of the people around you. Now here's the interesting part. Every religion in the world has a moral code, and with most of them this moral code is inflexible. Such as the ten commandments. Yet technically the ten commandments are violated every time a soldier kills an enemy combatant. Clearly this was understood even in biblical times, morality is supposed to be flexible. Yet when religion springs up, the first thing they do is codify systems of behavior because that ensures their organization will do what they want them to do.

Why does that matter? Because as we continue to advance as a society, as we continue to become better educated, and as our morality continues to progress, we will reach the point where these stubborn, codified systems of morality actually become unjust. And thus to continue moral advancement, such religions will have to be cast aside as the impediments to morality that they are. Take for instance the supreme injustice being done to homosexuals in this country, with their rights suspended, being forced to lie about themselves in order to serve their country, and being denied matrimony. The entire argument for this is based in religion, there is no other valid argument against homosexuality. Thus, in order to advance socially, the religions that would deny them the same rights as heterosexuals should be cast aside, because these religions are not the moral backbone of our country - instead they are the immoral cancer spreading through it.

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08-04-2009, 09:21 PM (This post was last modified: 08-04-2009 09:41 PM by MerryAtheist.)
Post: #9
RE: Faith / Good Works
(08-04-2009 09:10 PM)GTseng3 Wrote:  Well from me you have the idea of societal morality. Humans are social animals. ETC.

Good points, all of them.

Michael Shermer gives a fuller explanation of the development of ethics and morality in his book, The Science of Good and Evil. I highly recommend it.
(08-04-2009 04:05 PM)Heather_1989 Wrote:  i would say god commands it because its good, so basically if christians answer this question in that way it means they believe you can be good regardless of god?

In general, yes.

As Parousia indicated above, the Catholics skirt around this issue with the idea of "Natural Law". They say that Natural Law is good because it was made by God, AND that God made Natural Law because it is good. Therefore all humans have to obey this Natural Law because it is written within them by their Creator, whether or not they acknowledge His existence.

That doesn't appear to be a good answer, in my opinion. It merely shifts the dilemma one place backwards, because one need only ask "Who made Natural Law?" to arrive at the original question, but with different terms:

"Is Natural Law good because God created it, or did God create Natural Law because it was good?"

So the Catholics really don't answer the question, they simply add another term that adds nothing to the discussion... in my opinion.

I, too, am a former Catholic, by the way.

Simply put, if Good is defined as "Whatever God Commands", then Good is simply some arbitrary notion that God invents and therefore one must know God in order to know what is Good, and us atheists are screwed. But if Good is something that exists apart from God, then Good is available to all regardless of their belief in God.

One need only look around at the world to know that Good is not the sole province of believers.

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08-04-2009, 10:20 PM (This post was last modified: 08-04-2009 10:22 PM by Heather_1989.)
Post: #10
RE: Faith / Good Works
(08-04-2009 09:21 PM)MerryAtheist Wrote:  .
But if Good is something that exists apart from God, then Good is available to all regardless of their belief in God.

One need only look around at the world to know that Good is not the sole province of believers.

i agree and if that was not the case them my religions view on atheists makes little sense

GTseng3: "you do not need god to establish morality"
again i agree with this and people do often use religion to justify unjust things but this is the fault of the individual not the religion.
concerning homosexuals, in england this is a bit of a non-issue, although it does make me think about where my morality comes from, i'm very liberal and if it wasn't for my religion i would have no problem with homosexuals marrying, i felt quite uneasy with the mormon churches involvement on prop 8, while i felt it was perfectly justifiable for them to make their stance clear, i felt them actively trying to stop it happening was infringement on peoples right to choose.
sorry i went a bit off subject...
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