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Archive for the ‘Morality’ Category

No Love

Q: I know you’ll tell me God loves me, but you don’t know how much hurt I’ve caused and what a terrible person I’ve been. I know I need God and I wish I could believe He loves me, but I just can’t. — P.N.

A: Your god doesn’t love you; not because you’ve been a terrible person, but because it doesn’t exist. None of us need any type of god. God-belief and religion may have been beneficial when ancient humans were just starting to form the first societies. These religions provided a framework for law and order and simple (but incorrect) explanations for natural phenomena (eclipses, seasons, visible astronomical bodies, birth defects, etc.). However, because we have developed fair sociopolitical systems like democracy and explained much of the natural world through physics, chemistry, and biology, religion and god-belief are not needed now.

If you have acted in the past in a manner that has hurt others and that you regret, I hope that you try to make amends with those people and modify your behavior so that you are less likely to cause harm in the future. If you have not already, you may want to modify your personal moral code and try very hard to live by it.

Billy Graham’s answer.

Feel free to leave your answer to this question in the comments.

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Tried To Be A Good Person

Q: I’ll be 89 on my next birthday, and I know I don’t have much longer to live. How can I know that I’ll go to heaven? I’ve always tried to be a good person, but maybe I haven’t been good enough. — V. McF.

A: Congratulations on reaching such a milestone! Unfortunately, we can’t know if there is an afterlife. In fact, there is very little reason to think that one does exist. The heaven that Christians believe in almost certainly does not exist. If you’ve truly tried to be a good person, you can take satisfaction that your actions and words have aided many people throughout your life and that you have served as a good example to your family, friends, and others. You should not fear death, because you will cease to feel and think at that point. Ultimately, you are the only judge of whether you have been “good enough”.

Billy Graham’s answer.

Feel free to leave your answer to this question in the comments.

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Trouble

Q: Why do so many celebrities get into moral trouble? Don’t they realize it could destroy them? They ought to be thinking of the bad influence they’re having on people who look up to them. — J.D.

A: I don’t know that celebrities get into moral trouble (per your definition) any more frequently than non-celebrities. These stories certainly make the news much more frequently than if you or I got in trouble. We humans are excellent at pattern recognition. Every time you hear a story about a celebrity getting in trouble, it reinforces this pattern for you. However, when celebrities do not get in trouble (which probably pertains to most celebrities for any given time period), you do not hear about it, and the opposite pattern is not reinforced.

Billy Graham’s answer.

Feel free to leave your answer to this question in the comments.

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Salvation

Q: Is it possible to really know you’ll go to heaven when you die? I’ve always tried to be a good person, but I worry about whether or not I’ve been good enough to get into heaven. How can I know? — C.R.

A: I addressed this same topic last Friday. Many Christians believe that they will go to heaven only if they believe that Jesus died for them. This is what Billy Graham says in response to this question:

Our salvation doesn’t depend on us and our good works!

Don’t trust yourself and your goodness for your salvation. Instead, trust Christ and His goodness — for He alone is God’s way of salvation.

I think this is a lazy way for many to feel moral and righteous, since their actions don’t seem to matter, only their belief in a fictitious deity. When I was in college, I had many friends that were Christian, but treated other people (especially non-believers) poorly. I couldn’t resolve this apparent contradiction until I learned their beliefs about salvation. Then every thing made sense. I feel this attitude can lead to immoral behavior. I think we should threat each other with fairness and respect just because it feels like the right thing to do.

As I pointed out in yesterday’s answer, all aspects of Christianity are human inventions. Therefore, I would suggest that you reject your irrational Christian beliefs and adopt your own personal moral code to guide your actions. This will make you a more valuable member of your society.

Billy Graham’s answer.

Feel free to leave your answer to this question in the comments.

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Q: What do you think is the greatest social problem in the world today? Some friends and I were talking about this recently, but we didn’t come to any agreement. Whatever it is, do you think churches should be doing anything about it, or is it best left to governments? — M.F.

A: I think the greatest problem is the lack of free societies and open government in all countries. Where these are not in place, people are not free to pursue their lives and express themselves as they wish. In totalitarian countries, especially, citizens are forced to act in very strict ways. They are often forced to practice certain religions, work in dictated jobs, and subjected to arbitrary arrest without judiciary recourse. They have no right to vote and, hence, no mechanism to change their plight. Freedoms of speech, press, and assembly are highly restricted. These people will not be able to develop to their full potential or even live happy, fulfilling lives under these conditions.

I think efforts to force these countries to change must come from countries which already enjoy free society and open government. Organized churches are often operated in a totalitarian manner. While they may not oppress their members the extreme way in which the leaders of Libya and North Korea do, their strict adherence to dogma and lack of democratic processes make them poor agents for this type of change. The world has seen great improvements in political rights and civil liberties over the last 40 years, and I hope this continues until all peoples of the world are free.

Billy Graham’s answer.

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Feeling Guilty

Q: Both my parents were atheists, and they taught me not to feel guilty over anything I did because there wasn’t any such thing as absolute right and wrong. But now that I’m older, I feel a vague sense of guilt anyway. I’m still not sure I believe in God, but why do I feel this way? — Mrs. C.L.

A: Your depiction of your atheist parents is not representative of atheists in general. In fact, the only thing that atheists have in common is their lack of a belief in a god. In the areas of politics, economics, social justice, etc. there are no unified positions. I am an atheist, and I certainly believe there are some things that are absolutely right (e.g., feeding the hungry, saving someone from drowning) or wrong (e.g., rape, torture). I believe your parents were wrong to teach you not to feel guilt about any of your actions. Everyone has a personal moral code, and for most of us that prevents us from harming others (physically, emotionally, financially) or breaking the law. Guilt is our way of analyzing our actions that violated our personal moral code. I often feel guilty after arguing with my wife, and this causes me to want to listen to her better and show her ideas more respect in the future. The sense of guilt you feel may be due to the development of your personal moral code. This may have been delayed due to the poor parenting you received. You can read more about my thoughts on developing a personal moral code here.

A vast majority of atheists lead very respectable, highly ethical lives. In fact, an argument can be made that atheists as a whole lead more upstanding lives that Christians as a whole. Compared to the general population, Christians comprise a disproportionately higher fraction of US prison populations, while the opposite is true for atheists. There is also evidence to suggest that divorce rates and teen pregnancies are higher among Christians than among atheists. (I am not one to judge divorce or teen pregnancy as being immoral, but I know that many Christian do.) I think that atheists are incarcerated, divorced, and become pregnant as teens at a lower rate than religious people for the same reasons they do not believe in supernatural beings: education, reason, and rational thinking. These attributes allow people to question the dogma of faith and see through the delusion of supernatural belief. These people are also much more likely to make decisions that enhance their life and cause fewer problems in the future.

Billy Graham’s answer.

Feel free to leave your answer to this question in the comments.

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Aggressive Dealings

Q: I’ve always tried to run my business honestly, but I have to admit I’m a very competitive person and I’ve always been fairly aggressive in my business dealings. Is this wrong in God’s eyes? Can you follow Jesus and still get ahead in the business world? — H.T.

A: There are no good reasons to believe that any gods, and especially Jesus, have ever existed. Therefore, you only have your personal moral code (and the legal code of your country, state, municipality, etc.) to guide you. Our system of capitalism is based on strong competition between merchants, brokers, tradespeople, importer/exporters, etc. and often rewards those that work hard and are most aggressive. I would advise you to ask yourself if your aggressive dealings cause undo harm to your competition and your customers/clients or are unfair in some way. If you feel that you are being fair and not causing undo harm, be aggressive as you like.

Billy Graham’s answer.

Feel free to leave your answer to this question in the comments.

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