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.