Sunday, October 13, 2013

Basically Good



While washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen, I got to thinking: What does it mean when atheists and humanists say that people are 'basically good.' I've heard it all over the place. In fact, when I opined that it wasn't the case, a proponent for the 'basically good' camp got red-faced-angry and stormed away from the lunch table, livid at the thought that humans weren't inherently good at heart.

But what does it mean? If you were fighting for your innocence in court, would you want an attorney who was basically good? If you went to an expensive restaurant, would you want a dinner and/or service that was basically good?

Just what is the BASE in basically? How far down, exactly, does this floor lie? In terms of behavior, is it basically good to simply not steal from someone, but still ignore someone in need? Would we still think someone is good if they ogle women, but refrain from verbally harassing them? Or worse? Or maybe, it's fine to indulge in fantasizing about thievery, adultery, etc., but avoid DOING those things ... too much.

And maybe that's it. It's a matter of degree. Perhaps what basically means is that, in the end, when the scales are set, the bad won't break the scale. And if you're above the base, you might even break even or tip a bit over the bad. So, it's a good deeds vs. bad deeds sort of thing.

Of course, anyone in their right mind ... or who has ever tried to raise children ... knows that it's not even close when it comes to good behavior vs. bad. Let me put it this way: You don't have to teach a child to lie, slap, spit, sass, steal, covet, rage, lash out, etc. No, they do those things quite eloquently on their own. The challenge is to teach them proper behavior. The further challenge is then not to undermine that training by our own lack of discipline in those same areas. Hmmm. See a problem here?

Lastly, the biggest problem for those who think humans are basically good is this: What measures good? Earlier, I mentioned the degrees of goodness. But really, what is good? Who says coveting is wrong? Or stealing, for that matter ... what makes that wrong? After all, if someone is poor and needs to eat, why should they be stopped from taking what doesn't belong to them? Don't they have rights? So goes the mindless rambling of Godless man. In the end, all 'morality' is situational. Thus, goodness is elusive since no two people could be measured by the same standard.

But, if God is the standard of goodness, if His Law is the yard stick, then goodness can't be 'basically' measured. It either is good, or not. You either honor your father and mother, or you don't. You either love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, or you don't. You either keep all these commandments continually, or you've broken them and are no longer good. In fact, you're basically evil.