Can we be good without God?
The Indiana Atheist Bus campaign is looking to raise money to put advertisements on city buses, making the point that "you can be good without God." I find it interesting that a group would basically be proselytizing non-belief, but I will get into that later. Is the main point of the campaign valid?
It is certainly true that individuals can have personal morals/ethics without religion, and that societies can come up with a set of morals that are enforced by law. However, there can be no universal standard of morality without a Primary Source for that morality. If there is no supernatural force that governs all of nature and therefore has authority to set a universal standard of morality, an abomination like the Holocaust was not and cannot be fundamentally immoral because there is no absolute standard of morality to judge it against. Instead, each individual (or society) will decide for himself/herself/itself whether genocide is good or evil. In this moral anarchy, morality is decided by majority rule and subject to the whim of the crowd.
If there is no Primary Source of morality (be it God, any number of pagan pantheons, Allah, or even something silly like the Flying Spaghetti Monster) how can we judge that the Holocaust or child sacrifice is fundamentally immoral? After all, we may consider our morality to be superior to Nazi Germany, but how can we know for sure unless we can compare those moral standards to a higher source that sits above humanity? The simple answer is we cannot. Because there is a God, we know that things like the Holocaust and child sacrifice are not only fundamentally immoral, but evil and condemned by the Creator of the universe.
For those of us who believe and submit to God's Word, we know that we cannot be good without God and that any righteousness we have is not because we are good people, but because God has chosen to show mercy on us. As Romans 3:10-12 teaches us, "there is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Paul refers to Christ being our righteousness when he writes that "by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." (Romans 5:19) The Word further informs us that "by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
What a blessed assurance this is for us. While we were sinners and enemies of God, He nonetheless sent His Son to be sacrificed on the cross for our sin. (Romans 5:8) Because Christ was made sin for us, "we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." (II Corinthians 5:21) We do not have our own righteousness through our own good works, "but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." (Philippians 3:9) No matter how "good" we are on this earth, our only justification and escape from His wrath is through Christ's sacrifice. Because all of the work is done by Christ, all of the glory is His and His alone.
As I said above, I find it fascinating that atheists are basically proselytizing non-belief. Some of the other atheist displays have been downright hostile to religion. If you do not believe in anything, what need is there to convert people away from their beliefs? Why do you feel a need to "prove" that your beliefs are good and moral too? The answer is something that even these atheists refuse to admit to themselves. They know that there is a Creator who is holy and righteous and they are rebelling against Him. They are trying to justify themselves as they are convicted by their Creator.
Can one be good without God? If you are a Christian and you submit to Scripture, and answer must be a resounding NO. Some people will be marginally less evil than others and may even do some good, noble and charitable things, but we are all condemned by our Creator. Our only hope for salvation is the blood which our Creator shed on our behalf to atone for His creation's sins.