To avoid being accused of causing attacks on atheists, mainstream Christians say that atheists really do good.   Christian Smith is typical of that.  He is Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame.  In his book, Atheist Overreach, he is rehashing worn out Christian objections to atheism.  He claims that we see that atheists can do good but argues that they have no real compelling reason to be.  This is presented as "nice" but is it?  He thinks atheists are not sticking to what they know but isn't that what he is doing himself?  It depends on what a person reads and he clearly has not read well.

A person doing good but who wrecks the reasons for it is not good.  People are most susceptible by bad example that makes itself look good.

Smith rejects the idea that you can tell if a person's life is good or bad for that is over-simplifying.  But he knows nobody really does that.  We mean a person is bad when they do say one terrible thing such as a doctor killing a child patient on purpose or generally bad.  He explains that good is complicated and you can do great harm in getting it wrong.  So like atheists then his Christian theology struggles with good too.  So why is he pretending any different?  Why is he saying atheism is too vague and weak on good to be commendable or acceptable?

POINT - he says you look around you know atheists can be good for you can see it.

COMMENT: Trouble is Jesus himself said that you can look as good as the Pharisees and scribes and still be totally wrong and even vile. See Matthew 23. The Bible says God alone has the right to judge who is good as in what they are inside. It is not a good argument the book makes and manages to raise suspicion about atheists simply because it is too transparent and too thin.

It may be true that you cannot see the motives in another to see if they are as really good as they seem.  Do those who say that only God sees say that because it is true or because they want it to be true?  They often say that only God should see.  So if we had a machine or detector it would be a sin to use it.  It is religious extremism to ban people from seeing it if they can and should.  It shows religion is not as opposed to evil as it wants you to think.

QUOTE: Just because someone can and does act “good” does not mean they necessarily have good reasons to do so. 

COMMENT: He thinks atheists have no reason to be exceptionally good. He thinks an atheist is only moderately good.  He is clear that one big problem is that the atheist cannot find a reason to care about the stranger on the other side of the world.  This is the question of why we need to do good for all as far as possible. 

Smith is actually being crafty here.  You cannot be described as moderately good if you are selectively good.  That is not morality but favouritism.

Goodness that does not care about or base itself on good reasons is superficial goodness - goodness is deeper than that.

QUOTE: I will say that we need to disaggregate monolithic and ill-defined notions of what “good” is—that is, what we mean when using the adjective “good”—by identifying and describing distinct versions of what “being good” might entail. Most arguments in this debate proceed by assuming an implicit good-bad binary, as if people’s lives are either simply “good” or “bad,” which is crude and obfuscating.

COMMENT: We simplify somebody as good or bad depending on how much harm they do though we know it is more complicated than that. It is about why we condemn a person for murder disregarding the good that person did. Saving a thousand lives and murdering will get you the same condemnation as if you had never ever saved lives.

QUOTE WHERE HE: emphasizes the idea of having good reasons for moral behavior. I must clarify why I think that matters. I do not think that good reasons directly determine people’s moral actions. Humans are not simple rationalists who follow the best ideas. People’s behavior is influenced by many, often conflicting reasons, forces, and emotions. Other influences can override the genuinely good reasons people have to act a certain way. However, having good reasons for moral commitments still matters... even if having a good reason for it does not guarantee moral behavior, most people are more likely to behave in ways for which they believe they have good reasons than in ways for which they lack them.

COMMENT: It is important to inspire people with the reasons to be good even if some will not be inspired! It is better to put the truth out there anyway!

He thinks reasoning is an unfeeling empathy-lacking head exercise.  It does not have to be.  Good sense means you let yourself be guided by feelings that it makes sense to have.  If you head tells you to help the sick baby your head can tell you to do it because you feel you should among other reasons.  There is nothing wrong with that.  There need be no separation between having sensible rational reasons for doing something and letting your feelings attract you to doing so.  In fact it is rational then to let your feelings have a say.

QUOTE: Rationality and intellectual honesty require that we evaluate important claims; and if we cannot find good reasons to justify them, then on philosophical grounds the claims must be judged lacking.



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