It was gratifying to see Professor Lipman’s essay, particularly his comments on “Good Without A God”, a phrase which appears to be a revision to Good Without God, to which I previously objected.  I was unaware that the original phrase had been improved in this way.I had been hoping that others might continue the discussion and to have someone of Mel’s stature in the freethinking community weighing in is a real plus.  

The addition of the indefinite article, “a”, completely changes the meaning from a reference specific to a monotheistic entity to an indeterminate, amorphous concept.  In my experience, when questioned about monotheism vs. God’s admission in Genesis that “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me” Christians don’t agree that this means that their Almighty was a polytheist; they offer a feeble exigesis: it means that anything we care about excessively (money, sex, liquor, and other desirable objectives of life) can become a “god” to us, or replace the real god in favor of something worldly (meaning just about everything else).  The revision eliminates completely the primacy of any one object or deity over another.

The power of words is evident in our daily lives, and are often more so the more terse the statement.  This becomes apparent in slogans, sound-bites, and the like.  And I agree that a few well-chosen words cannot often convince anyone to abandon life-long superstition; that’s an awful lot to expect from a few words, no matter how pungent.  The most that might be accomplished is to stimulate critical re-thinking of beliefs in one individual at a time.

Although Mel and I agree on Good Without A God, he brings up some other points that I believe are important to discuss.  I’m hoping these can be addressed in subsequent essays by ourselves and others.  And as we approach the national elections in November, it’s likely that additional issues important to us will surface.  Many of the candidates are climbing over each other pretending to be more pious than the others; that is, I hope they’re pretending.  If they aren’t, we need to be ready.

HUmanists Slogan Good Without a GodIt has been implied that the slogan, "Good without a god" implies the existence of a god.  That is not so.  The slogan clearly implies, "good without a belief in the existence of a god".  It could say, "good without unicorns" or "good without tooth fairies", but that is not the intent of our slogan.  Since many people believe they are good because of their belief in a god, we are making it clear that we are not part of that majority, and our goodness has nothing to do with belief in a god.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with the slogan "Good without a god".

But let's stop living in a dream world in which we think we will convince god-believers they are wrong and we are right.  Instead, let's be realistic. We don't need gods to be good.  But others may have that need.  If we are all "good", do our motives really matter?

Let's encourage those without a belief in the supernatural to stop being afraid to admit it, while acknowledging that we will not change the convictions of others.

Good people have many allies among atheists as well as among religious people.  Let's align with all those who are "good" rather than driving them away.

God belief does not exist for me.  But it is not important enough to cause me to shun those who have much in common with me despite their belief in a god.  I have much more in common with religionists such as John Shelby Spong, Welton Gaddy, Barry Lynn, Gard Jameson, Aslam Abdullah, Jimmy Carter, etc., than I do with many atheists.

I am good without a god belief.  Others are good with a god belief.  It is the "good" that is more important to me than the god belief.

We may not agree on the existence of a god or an afterlife, but surely we can agree that life in the here and now requires that we create peaceful, collaborative ways to work and live together. 

Good wihtout GodYou’ve probably heard the news by now that the fastest-growing religion in the USA is “Nones”. This misunderstood group is often defined as those who don’t belong to or attend a church, or subscribe to any dogmatic belief system.  This statistic is said to include atheists and agnostics, secularists and humanists.  

Of course, Nones aren’t necessarily non-believers, and this is important to keep in mind.  Included in this category are self-styled “spirituals”, a term which means, to those that I know personally that identify as such, believers in some vague, undefined “higher power”.  (“I don’t believe in religion, but I’m spiritual”.) Others are just fed up with the excesses of religion which include ownership of massive amounts of real estate, pedophilia, TV preachers, etc.  The actual percentage of atheistic or agnostic Nones is hard to quantify because many people deny their non-belief in order to fit in, or not offend those with (usually) Christian sensibilities, especially bosses and co-workers.

At a time when slogans promoting religion are virtually everywhere (check out your local Wal-Mart parking lot) the non-believing community has groped for its own pithy bumper-sticker sound bites as a counter to the ubiquitous religious drivel we are presumed to respect, e.g., God Is My Co-Pilot, Jesus Is My Boss, In Case Of Rapture This Car Will Be Unmanned, Got Jesus?, and many more, all of which can be seen regularly on T-shirts and other apparel countrywide.

Although we non-believers have made a lot of ground against god-ism in the last few decades, we are far behind in the snappy, pointed slogan department.  It seems to be more difficult to come up with succinct phrases which assert a negative such as atheism in a punchy, positive manner.

Good without God Countrywide

A popular, recent attempt is “Good Without God”.  It can be seen it on mugs, stickers, t-shirts, etc.  Although its proponents mean well, I find it problematic.  I believe there are serious issues with it.  In discussing my reluctance to embrace it I have encountered everything from agreement to derision.  (I’ve been accused by my peers of over-thinking, which I find is a curious accusation in any case.)

Most clearly, Good Without God implies the existence of a deity.  Here in christian America that can mean only one guy, Yahweh, the abusive, neurotic god of the Old and New Testaments.  The assertion Good Without God assumes that there is a god, and that we choose to not believe in him, and reject him as the source of morality, good, and evil.  It also fails as an attempt to be inoffensive to believers, especially those who find the mere existence of atheism an insult to their tender feelings of heavenly grace-filled righteousness. 

Further, when I hear Good Without God I am reminded of Fox News’ mantra, “Fair and Balanced”.  With frequent repetition, it takes on the nature of a meme.  If you have to declaim to your audience that you are fair and balanced, it probably means you’re not either, or you’ve got something to hide, or it’s flat-out not true.

We atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers don’t need to buy into the lies of the preachers, or those congregational sheep who claim that morality comes from an imaginary deity and is not part of the evolutionary process which includes pursuit of mutual benefits for all as a component of survival.  We should not be taking a defensive posture where morality (or any of the other lies the religious promote) is concerned.

Recently I have seen t-shirts with the slogan “Good Without Gods” which changes the meaning entirely.  I think this represents a step in the right direction, but is totally irrelevant since pantheism is pretty much ignored in the USA.  We need something better.

Those who need a god to be good

This past weekend, hundreds — many, many more hundreds than expected — descended on The Slammer, outspoken atheist Penn Jillette's previous home, to help raise money and awareness for the project to transform it into "The Nevatican," intended to be a secular community center headed up by the United Church of Bacon. If successful, it will be free to use for events run by all the various secular organizations in Las Vegas (our own HALV, Sunday Assembly Las Vegas, and other LVCoR-related groups).

Word spread like wildfire across social media (Facebook, Meetup.com, Twitter, Instagram) as the event approached. An expected 200-300 attendees grew to over 1,100 RSVPs, and more than that estimated to have actually attended. 

Dozens of volunteers helped organize and produce the event in only a matter of days; a great example of what humans can accomplish when working together towards a goal. Setup (seating, signage, etc.), execution (parking, attendee sign-ins, donation collection, food service, childcare), and even clean-up seemed to go exceptionally quickly and without a hitch.

The "Save The Slammer" project still has a long way to go, however, and more events are in the works to continue the fund-raising endeavor. Those events should go even more smoothly, as some setup will already be done from this first event (e.g. signage, grading of the parking areas, etc.), along with things learned that can be done better next time.

For more information and to donate to the cause, see the Indiegogo page: http://igg.me/at/nevatican/x

Media coverage:

#SaveTheSlammer
#Nevatican

 

DISQUS