Whose Morality?


The great struggle of philosophy is the definition of good and evil. These are supernatural descriptions of actions, not objects, and so are ridiculously difficult to nail down. (If you don’t like the word “supernatural” then perhaps the word “metaphysical” will suit you better?)

Christians along with many other religions agree that morality is defined by some supernatural being. Whether the being is good and good is universal, or good is just whatever the being prefers is irrelevant.

The issue, of course, we don’t agree on that being and even if we did, we wouldn’t agree with what the being was saying.

This problem can be solved, rather simply. See, rather than relying on someone telling us what we *should* do, we can instead look at what someone actually did and model our behavior on that.

The question then becomes: Who do we model our behavior on?

Let me propose a good candidate: Jesus Christ.

Whether you believe in God or not, whether that God is even the Judeo-Christian God of the Old Testament or not, we can all agree that there exists a record of what Jesus actually did. And I think we can all agree that Jesus was a pretty good guy, no matter your background.

Let’s examine some of the things Jesus did and use them as examples for how we can behave.

  • Jesus studied and learned and grew. We can all study and learn and grow.
  • Jesus talked and walked with people from all walks of life. We can do the same.
  • Jesus taught people that whatever the law is, you can strive to do better. “Better,” for Jesus, meant putting your heart in line with your actions.
  • Jesus taught people that strict obedience to the law without pure intent is like disobedience. We are not born to be mechanical robots, but to experience life, to love and live it to the fullest, and the commandments are there to make our lives better.
  • Jesus helped people with their physical needs. Not only did he miraculous heal many people, including raising some from the dead, but he also helped people with food and clothing and other important things. We know this because Judas was in charge of the charitable funds for Jesus’ group, and questioned whether it was good to let the woman waste a fortune on bathing his feet in perfume.
  • Jesus laid down his own life for everyone. This kind of self-sacrifice is, frankly, without parallel that I know of in any religion. Jesus, the very being who we either claim was God himself or was the Son of God incarnate, came down to earth and willingly put his life in the hands of his enemies, all so that he can effect salvation for all.

If you’re an Atheist, and you struggle with the question of good and bad, why don’t you try studying the life of Jesus, read the words he actually spoke, the things he actually did, and try to learn a little more about what it means to be good in Christianity? Who knows, maybe you’ll find some inspiration for your own life.


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