Can Anyone ‘Be Good for Goodness’ Sake’?
The American Atheists organization has trotted out its anti-Christmas — actually anti-God — billboards again: “Go Ahead and Skip Church! Just be Good for Goodness’ Sake. Happy Holidays!”
There’s so much that’s bad about this that I don’t know where to begin. First, the use of “Happy Holidays.” A holiday is a “holy day.” That’s what holiday means. “HOLY DAY” is the first definition given by Merriam-Webster.
Christmas is a holy day, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, for which government workers get paid for not working. I’ve never understood why the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation do not go to court to get this “establishment of religion” overturned.
If these atheists were really consistent, they would demand that all governments must work on Christmas in order to demonstrate that the government is not sanctioning December 25th as a religious holy day.
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Second, to be good for the sake of goodness means nothing until “good” and “goodness” are defined. It’s like saying, “Be a man by being manly.” I still don’t know what it means to be a man by telling me to be manly. Atheists borrow their definition of goodness from a worldview that begins with God.
Third, what is the source of what is good? Who ultimately determines what is good? By good, of course, we mean “morally good.” How do atheists determine goodness and badness from the chemical composition of the brain? Why should the chemical reaction in one atheist’s brain be used to tell other carbon units and their brain’s chemical reactions what to do? Who says I or anyone else should do this or that?
Fourth, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin claimed that what they were doing was for the greater good. If you had asked Hitler if killing Jews was evil, he most likely would have said no. He believed he was acting in terms of what he considered to be good. And where in the atomic structure of human beings, in the deepest reaches of their DNA, do atheists find a moral code that tells them that killing some people for the sake of goodness is morally bad?
Fifth, atheists do good things because they are created in the image of God, not because there is some sort of inherent goodness in evolved matter. Atheists “show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them. . .” (Rom. 2:14-16).
Sixth, in the world of atheism, there is no one or thing to make an ultimate judgment about anything. Atheism is a worldview driven by faith in a system of thought supposedly generated by a brain that evolved from a pre-biotic soup of chemicals. How can a materialist know that an evolved brain can be trusted to know anything authoritatively or claim that certain behaviors are morally right or wrong given purely materialistic assumptions? C. S. Lewis put it this way:
“If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents — the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists’ and astronomers’ as well as for anyone else’s [thought processes]. But if their thoughts — i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident would be able to give correct account of all the other accidents.”1
The ability to reason and the reality of morality are accounted for in the proposition that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and “created man in His own image” (Gen. 1:1, 27).
Atheists recoil at such talk, but they actually need this denied premise to account for all the image-bearing tools they use to denounce the God they claim they do not need in order to be good.
- C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 52–53. [↩]