Thursday, 30 October 2014

Good without God

I have just completed my second stint this month of looking after the pub and am gladly ensconced back in the flat. Spike has been watered, Charlie has returned safely from her marathon drinking binge (I mean girls' holiday) in Portugal and much is right in the small world of Finnginn that previously seemed askew.

When I stay above the pub, I have a little morning routine whereby I stroll out to get the papers from the nearby paper shop and loop back to the pub stopping to pick up a bacon sandwich and a vegetable samosa from Louis' Deli (home of the best sausage roll in Norwich). That sounds nice, you may think, a thoroughly pleasant morning walk with the incentive of a locally-sourced free-range bacon sandwich with homemade tomato ketchup to munch in front of Millionaire Matchmaker before opening the doors of the bar to the public. But you have not made the mistake of once wearing a badge that bore the legend: 'Good without God' and thus incurred the fury of the enthusiastically religious guy who runs the paper shop. The first exchange went something like this:

"Good Morning." 

"How can a morning be Good without God? God is goodness. There is no goodness without God."

"I just mean... I mean the badge means... I mean the message that the badge intends to convey and it is a message I agree with is that atheists can be moral people."

"There is no goodness without God."

"Fine, can I have an Evening News as well please."

"You should take off your badge."


"£2.75 please."

"May I have a receipt with that?"

The next day it was raining and I was wearing a different coat.

"Good Morning."

"I see you have removed your badge."

"I'm wearing a different coat."

"Is this the coat you wear when you realise that you cannot have goodness without God?"

"No. This is the coat I wear when it is raining. Can I have an Evening News as well please?"

"You should renounce Satan."

"I'm sorry?"

"£2.75 please."

"May I have a receipt with that."

The next day, I went to a different paper shop, but it was much further away and the route didn't take me on a convenient loop back past Louis' Deli and I was running late and I didn't have time to grab a bacon sandwich. So that night, I downloaded The Euthyphro - Plato's dialogue wherein is contained the proof that God and goodness cannot be equated if God wills us to be good.

Essentially, the argument raises the following question: does God will us to do good because certain acts are good or are certain acts good because they are God's will? For the atheist this is a no-brainer. You can remove God from the question and be left with human acts both good and bad. But if you believe in God then you are left with the tricky choice between saying: 'acts are good or bad regardless of God's will' or the rather empty: 'God wills what is God's will'. 

Thus prepared, I donned my badge and set off to buy the papers.

"Good morning."

"Good Morning, would you like an Evening News to go with those?"

"Why thank-you yes I would."

"£2.75 please, here is your receipt."


"Next please."

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