Can we be good without God? Some people claim we can. Others say we cannot. The traditional Christian view is that we are not good, only God is good. We can never be good, because we are sinners, but because God is good, and He forgave us through the sacrifice of Jesus, then we can enter heaven without having to be good. Other religions may say similar things, but I am most familiar with Christianity. On the other end of the spectrum, I have read from non believers that, because God does not exist, we can still be good without the need of religion. I think that the question should be, can we still “do” good, instead of can we “be” good. As a reflective Christian, I have been pondering on this question. Can we “be” good by “doing” good? If I steal, I am doing something evil. Does this make me evil? If I feed the hungry, I am doing something good, does this make me good? Is “doing” something that is good relative? Does it depend on how we define what is “good”? Slavery was considered good. Interracial marriages was considered not good. I think that “being” good is like a title. Anybody can call themselves anything they want. What really counts is our actions. I believe that we will be known “by our fruits” (Matthew 7:16 ) and that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Therefore, what I “do” determines not what I already am, but what I am becoming. If I hate my neighbor I am becoming less good. If I repent and start loving my neighbor again, I start becoming more good. It is a continuum state of being. What about God? Do we need to believe in God to “become” good? It depends on how we define “God.” Is God a Being up in heaven making us do good? Or is He among us, guiding us to do good? Or is He an imaginary friend or a psychological crutch that we use to feel guilty if we don’t do good? Some argue that we can choose to do good without having to believe in God. But to me this implies that we can define what is good or not.
My understanding of God is limited. All I know for sure (based on my personal experience) is that loving others unconditionally is “doing good” and, therefore, becoming more good. God, Higher Being, the common good, or whatever title you want to give it is what drives me to do good. We did not invent doing good. And I believe that doing more good will help me become more like God. My goal in this life is to know God more, and I believe that I can do this by doing good, so that I can experience God more. I am not giving myself the credit for doing good, but to God.
I may say that I don’t believe that democracy really exists. But if I vote for political candidates, fight for freedom, and try to practice equality, then I am practicing democracy. If I don’t believe in counselors, but give my friends advice and listen to them, I become more like a counselor. I can deny it with my mouth, but I am acknowledging with my actions. This is why I believe that, even if I deny the existence of God for whatever reason (there is no “proof” or I don’t want to live a “fairy tale”), I am reflecting God (Higher Power/Being, etc) by “doing good”. We are constantly becoming something, one way or another. By our actions, we are becoming more like God or less like God. Jesus said, “be perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) by loving our enemies. He also taught to “forgive others seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). He understood we could not forgive once and for all. Jesus recognized that we must continue to forgive over and over again to “become” more like God. We must continue to “bear much fruit” to remain closer to God (John 15: 1-10). So, can we be good without God? Well, can we serve others without being servants?