Good God 4/7/23

Thoughts with Richard Bleil

The argument was bizarre. He insisted that I must be Christian because I am moral. I do not consider myself to be Christian (although I was raised as a Methodist, I have since distanced myself from the church), but the argument was intriguing. When I told him that I am not Christian, he said that I must be because morals come from the Bible. It is, he said, impossible to be moral if you are not Christian.

This was brought to mind because an article just crossed my path asking this very question. I didn’t read it, I must admit, but the title suggested that the article was about the necessity of God for “goodness”. I find it an odd concept, frankly.

I guess that, in order to discuss the role of God in morality and goodness, we need to touch on what it means to be good and moral. I know I’ve touched on this in other blog posts, but there is a difference between morals and ethics. Ethics are socially agreed upon codes of conduct. They’re not laws, but just things that we generally agree upon. If I accidentally bumped into somebody with my shopping cart, there are no laws that say that I have to apologize, and yet, most people would agree that the polite thing to do would be just that. You check to see if the person is okay and apologize for the accident. If you don’t, you won’t go to jail because you didn’t break any laws, but it’s generally accepted to be the right thing to do.

Morals, on the other hand, are personal codes of conduct. When I take my groceries out to my car, I always return to cart at least to the cart corral and coordinate with the size carts that are already there. Usually I use the small cart, so I won’t put it with the full-size carts to make it easier for the employees. Lately, I even take it a step further and sort out the carts if somebody has already mixed the sizes. There are no laws that say that I need to do this, and there really are no socially agreed upon standards that hold me ethically to do so. It’s just who I am and how I like to be. That makes it a moral instead of an ethic.

But if I do not align with a church, is God involved? You might say that I was raised with these morals in a “Christian” household, and my so-called “Christian” household included racism, anger and emotional abuse. We rarely went to church, and when we did it felt more like a chore than a pleasure.

This might irritate some of my readers, but even the ten commandments seem insignificant for ways to live. What I mean by that is that the first four, for example, are about being faithful to God. Don’t pray to false Gods, no graven images, the sabbath kind of stuff. A few of them are common sense kind of stuff, like don’t kill, don’t steal and no adultery. The only real moral commandments are honor your mother and father, don’t covet and don’t lie. These are all pretty surface-level things, if not covered by law but also common sense. When I was married, I didn’t need the Bible to tell me not have affairs. The fact that I didn’t want to cause emotional pain to my wife and family was all I needed to know to keep me faithful.

The seven deadly sins are maybe a little more meaningful, those being the sins of pride, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, sloth and wrath. I know people who are very well practiced at these. Pride is very common, especially in today’s society, while envy, lust and greed are all used as marketing tools by large companies and manufacturers. And if you want to be able to afford those things that you envy, lust after and have greed for, you’d better not be slothenly. And if you want to see wrath, just look at the way that people drive.

As a society, we revel in the seven deadly sins, and the commandments are treated like mild suggestions, and what of these sins and commandments said that I should have tipped the drivers of the airport shuttle buses as I did? For me, to be a good person is to see others. I know the struggles of a single mother to make ends meet even if it’s not something that I’ve personally experienced, so yes, I tip and donate to charity and help where I can. Not because God told me to do so, not because it’s in the Bible, and not even because of the way that I was raised. I do these things because they are the right things to do. And for me, that’s enough.


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