“Good Morals”, What Does That Mean Anyway?

I like to think I have reasonably good “morals”.  I try to be honest with people, not take more than my share, not harm others or their property and attempt to do things that will make it possible for others to follow me on this planet.

What would Jesus think of  my morals?  He would laugh at them.  Good morals to Jesus were believing in him and the god.  There were a few other things, but not much.

The point is, when someone says to an atheist, “Where do you get your morals from?” (meaning you have no source because you don’t believe the Bible is important) we are talking about apples and oranges.  The kind of morals Jesus talked about was all about him and the benefits to followers.

All of this is very understandable because Jesus believed the end would happen during the lifetimes of those alive when he was alive.  There was no future to be concerned about.

All of this is unfortunate because it means there really is no common understanding of the word, “morals”, between believers and nonbelievers.  The good thing is most Christians practice the nonbeliever’s definition of morals instead of the spiritual one.

That is, most Christians don’t consider living in total disregard for others or for future generations.  If they actually followed the Jesus definition we’d be far worse off than we are.

It’s fortunate we have nonbelievers to properly define morals.

FaceBook, Red River Freethinkers,  Freethinkers Meeting 1 PM 1/20, Plains Art, 702 1st Ave. N., Fargo

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About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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39 Responses to “Good Morals”, What Does That Mean Anyway?

  1. Stanta says:

    Jon, got it wrong again. This is how you get to heaven.

    Matthew 25:31-46

    New International Version (NIV)
    The Sheep and the Goats

    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Stan 12:57 So all that stuff about believing in Jesus/God isn’t important? I read the believe stuff is the only real ticket.

      • Stanta says:

        It’s just the start Jon. The closer you follow this after believing the more fun it gets.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Stan 1:32 “It’s just a start Jon. The closer you follow this after believing the more fun it gets.”

          That just can’t be correct. You and I know, I’m sure, people who do not believe and do not commit any more “sin” than the average believer. These nonbeliever are do gooders to the max. So, if all that scripture you quoted earlier got people into heaven, they’d be in. The only difference between the believer and nonbeliever is, the nonbeliever is not allowed in. It can’t be both.

          • Stanta says:

            Jon, who is perfect? Who has never had a nasty thought toward someone? We are suppose to acknowledge our imperfections, ask for forgiveness, if possible from those offended.

            What I question you is, if they don’t bother or want to believe in God and Jesus, any should they want to believe or be in heaven? If they DO believe in heaven doesn’t follow that they should believe in God?

            You want your cake and to eat it too.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Stan 2:29 “You want your cake and to eat it too.”

            I think I was just asking a logical question. If good works get one into heaven, it must not be a requirement to believe. Many who do good works do not believe. In the passage where the Jesus character in the Bible talks about believing, he doesn’t mention good works. That’s in another section, but as I say, it’s does not apply.

          • Henry says:

            Jon, you are such a do-gooder. Sorting out the bad cans of food some evil Republican cast your direction with a sneer on his face as he unloads the expired items from the trunk of his Cadillac with a V10. Yet, you still lack some things. Give up all your atheistic theology and follow Jesus Christ.

          • Stanta says:

            You do understand there is a whole book out there right. Try reading it some time, you may stop asking silly questions or expecting us to provide a Cliff’s Books summation of the Bible daily.

  2. Avatar of Mac Mac says:

    Isn’t it curious how people can interpret things so differently? I’ve always interpreted Jesus’ teachings to mainly be of kindness and respect for others, and to dump the legalistic crap that the powers-that-be used to manipulate others.

    Bottom line, Jesus’ said to worry about yourself and your own behavior. And don’t be quite so concerned about everyone else’s march into hell. Wherever a person stands on the ‘risen Savior’ scale, following those teachings of self reflection as well as love and respect for all creation sure puts your spirit in a good place for both this life and whatever may (or may not) be the next phase of our spirit’s journey.

    The reason I get annoyed with fundies is because they do exactly the stuff Jesus preached against, and they supposedly do it in Jesus’ name.

    • Stanta says:

      Mac, to you and Jon I am probably considered a fundy.To many I work with in our ministries I am a liberal. I believe in God as the only God, Christ is His son and in the Holy Spirit. I believe that the steps to becoming a Christian are few but are spiritually and emotionally difficult. I never expect someone entering the faith to be perfect, but I do expect that they make changes to become more like the Mathew 25 quote above. That is more important then any of the legalistic how many angels can dance on the head of a pin crap that is debated between the denominations.

      I never expected to see the changes in me that have happened. I try to do the right ethical moral thing even when no one else is looking. Some times I miss…..but that doesn’t stop me from trying next time.

      I would love to be able to say that all who call themselves Christian are trying to do the same, but I know for a fact that for 50 years I missed the mark more often then not because I while i didn’t disbelieve, if felt that i could never be perfect. Now i understand that no one is perfect short of death, but we have to do our best.

    • Henry says:

      Mac: “and to dump the legalistic crap”

      To do so, would that be an expression of love for your Lord Jesus Christ?

    • Stanta says:

      Don’t be do concerned with someone else’s march to hell.

      Guess we should stop the prison retreats which have helped so many turn from a life of crime. Many of them habitual criminals, not first timers .

  3. buzz marick says:

    pr0gress not perfection helps me one day at a time.by the way,what’s a Fundy?thanks in advance

    • Henry says:

      Buzz, a fundy is an atheist that claims to fundamentally follow logic and reason. The reality is they can’t.

      • Formerly Fargo Bob says:

        Jon obviously does a good job of getting under your skin with his argumentation. For years, believers have lectured us about how belief in Jesus is the only source of morality. Actually, they are “moral” because they want to secure their imagined place in an imagined heaven. Following a list of proscribed dos and don’ts isn’t morality, it’s a selfish attempt to stay in good with your God.

        • Stanta says:

          Obviously Bob would prefer to make his own morals and reject any that may actually make sense from the Judeo/Christian Bible. Be interesting how that would work out.

          • Formerly Fargo Bob says:

            Ah, yes, the old “morals must be written in stone by a deity” to be valid argument. Frankly, there’s not much in the Bible that reflects any morality I’d like to live by. I would never endorse the many hideous things that the Bible endorses. And for the little that is good you hardly need a deity to come up with “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”

          • Stanta says:

            Bob, why are there so many assaults, rapes, murders and robberies if be kind to others is so self evident?

          • Formerly Fargo Bob says:

            In the Western world, the U.S. ranks near or at the top in religious belief. The same applies for violent crime. According to your logic, that shouldn’t be the case.
            I wish I had the answer as to why there is so much violent crime in our country, but what is clear to me is that religious belief is not the answer.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Stan 4:06 “but they have a better chance if they have a faith and faith community to help them.”

            I heard people do better, statistically, if they have a stable family and community of support behind them. I’ve never heard if has to include belief.

          • Stanta says:

            Third try, hope they all don’t come through.

            Jon, would you explain where this stable family or community comes from? I would guess with the prisoners I talked with more then 95% have no stable support when they get out. Just other people who spend part of each year in jails and the rest of the time drinking or using drugs. When the money runs out they cook and sell some meth or rob someone, maybe break and enter a couple of times until they are caught again.

            The churches are the prime communities providing that stable environment. They provide housing, training and personal help for the released prisoners, but it helps if the released prisoners WANT to change. Many of them are changed because of the work of the volunteers who come there as Christian volunteers. I know one man who has attended over 150 retreat weekends as a former offender, he changes lives.

            I guess we could send them to your free Thinkers meeting on Sunday. Are you ready to provide what they need? Can you help them beat addictions and old habits? The government doesn’t seem to know what to do, and doesn’t have the money to do it anyway. It seems the government has a tough time just keeping track of the ones on probation. Many of them never show up for the probation officer and seem to be lost in the paperwork.

            The churches sometimes can provide housing, help financially and provide training in life skills that many never had. Christian individuals start non-profits and put their time and treasure into helping the ex-convicts expecting nothing in return, at least not in this life.

            So what if they happen to become Christians along the way, was their earlier life better when they didn’t believe?

          • “In the Western world, the U.S. ranks near or at the top in religious belief. The same applies for violent crime. According to your logic, that shouldn’t be the case.”

            Those in power and influence do not hold those religious beliefs.

          • Stanta says:

            One thing I have discovered with people in jail is that it’s never their fault. They were framed/tricked. It wasn’t their gun/knife/car. they attack people because they were disrespected/the victim had it coming/sounded like a good idea at the time. There is always some excuse, but they never taker responsibility for it.

            The ones I do know who have finally broken out of the wash rinse repeat cycle have all done it by accepting God and Christ. Then they comeback with us and help others. Sometimes for years afterward.

            I realize it is hard for someone who doesn’t believe in God to understand this. But to us who have seen it happen repeatably it isn’t even surprising.

            If you have a better solution i would be willing to help out trying it.

          • Stanta says:

            Yeah, those terrible laws like “Thou shall not kill” While we teach about survival of the fittest.

        • Henry says:

          FFB: “Following a list of proscribed dos and don’ts isn’t morality, it’s a selfish attempt to stay in good with your God.”

          You are very wrong. You do not understand Christianity based on your words. Christianity is for the sinner. Working to follow the biblical law exclusively will be quite frustrating for you and will result in death. Christ will give you the faith if you allow him. If you have faith in Christ, your works will become evident.

      • entech says:

        Fundamentalist Christianity traditionally refers to specific sets of belief within the Christian rubric that hold to five “fundamentals,” as put forth in the early 20th century. They are biblical literalists also King James Only, though not all biblical literalists are fundamentalists. “Fundamentalist” has become a generalized term for anyone who is a biblical literalist, a creationist opposing Evolution, especially YEC also a Christian politician who emphasizes their religion.

        The five fundamentals of Christian fundamentalism
        1. Inerrancy of the Bible. The fundamentalist views the Bible as a divinely inspired work authored by men acting under the direction of God, and as such is entirely error-free.
        2. Biblical literalism. This is distinct from Biblical inerrancy. Biblical literalism is an approach to Biblical interpretation; literalists hold that the meaning of the text is given by the plain meaning of the author(s). Only those passages which are clearly allegorical or symbolic ought to be understood as allegory or symbolism. That said, discerning which passages are clearly allegorical is exceedingly difficult.
        3. The virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Fundamentalists hold this against encroaching materialism which denies the supernatural.
        4. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Christ inserts his own perfect record, in place of ours, into the divine retributive mechanism.
        5. The bodily resurrection of Jesus and the imminent personal return of Jesus Christ. This fundamental is held in opposition to those who say Jesus appeared to Peter as a spirit, or that He will return only in a symbolic sense.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      buzz 2:37 Please ignore Henry who doesn’t enjoy giving staight answers. A “fundy” is a Christian Fundamentalist.

  4. entech says:

    There is a dilemma suggested by Plato in Euthyphro dialog, when he asks about piety and whether the Gods love the pious because it is pious or if it is pious because the Gods love it.

    Modified (after Leibnitz) :
    A common argument presented by Christian apologists is that without God there can be no morality.
    Most Christians agree that whatever God wills is moral:
    But; is something moral because God wills it?
    or; does God will it because it is moral?

    So, is morality arbitrary or a necessary truth.
    If arbitrary then all kinds of things are moral from Biblical approval – genocide, slavery, rape etc.
    If it is a necessary truth, it is moral without Gods approval, in fact God approves it because it is moral.

    Why does God even enter the equation, unless the Christian wants an excuse to justify his hatreds and biases.

    A smart sophisticated debater like Henry will point out that I am creating a false dichotomy by suggesting that there are only two possibilities, a trick often employed by creationists – can’t explain it, therefore God. But, the whole argument presupposes the existence of God, as that essential point is undecided the whole argument is futile.

    People know what is moral without being told by someone claiming to be Gods representative on earth.
    Bad people go against morality because they are bad people, some remain moral because they a frightened of divine punishment – an immoral behaviour in itself but one approved, even encouraged by the church.
    Question; does this last point imply that the Church itself is an immoral entity?

    • Henry says:

      Philippians 1:18
      What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

  5. “It’s fortunate we have nonbelievers to properly define morals.”
    What morals are those? Free sex of the ’60s that produced babies nobody wanted, that resulted in abortion on demand in the early ’70s.

    • Stanta says:

      Half of all births to women under 30 are to single parents. Men having multiple children from multiple mothers simultaneously. Both a significant reason so many children are born into poverty.

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