Friday, May 12, 2006

somebody's unholy hoax

Two great letters from The Guardian follow. First, Helen Brown's hilarious assertion that it is impossible to be good without belief in God, and then Claire Raynor's beautifully terse response. Great stuff.

"Julian Baggini's article on sin (G2, May 9) misunderstands the significance of sin. There is in fact no distinction to be made between doing something contrary to God's will, and doing something contrary to our own good. The Aristotelian guiding principle of human happiness, to which Baggini refers, is not intrinsically without reference to God's will - if human beings have been created by God, then the happiness of the rational animal will involve conformity to God's will, as only God can satisfy the human body and soul.

Of course today's youth is not amoral as such; young people are still human and capable of thinking about morality. But a true rejection of God is ipso facto a rejection of good: you cannot have the latter without the former.

Without the knowledge of God, one can neither fully appreciate the calamitous condition of fallen mankind, nor make fully informed moral judgements, nor by grace attain beatitude. To reject God's will is not to reject the arbitrary rule of a tyrant, but to reject the most loving overtures of the creator who has made us for the only lasting happiness, eternal happiness with him.
Helen Brown

"The arrogance of Christians like Helen Brown is breathtaking (Letters, May 10). To state as she does that it is not possible to be good without believing in a supernatural being domiciled in a supernatural heaven, who keeps his (never a her, of course!) worshippers in line by reminding the faithful of a disgusting hell ruled by another supernatural being, is positively juvenile. Indeed, by saying so I insult the many children I know who have a far clearer view of the real world than she does. I hope they will forgive me.

I am as offended as must be the many hundreds of thousands of other secular humanists who share the view of Thomas Paine - a real, breathing man, and not in the least supernatural - who, when quizzed by one of the sort of person that Helen Brown is and represents said: "My country is the world, and my religion is to do good." Like him, today's atheists need neither heavenly carrots nor hellish sticks to persuade us to be moral, ethical persons who love our neighbours as ourselves simply because it is the right and good thing to do, and not because of supernatural flummery.
Claire Rayner

Seeing as we're talking about both letter-writing and God, let's end with a quick verse from XTC's terrific 'Dear God', shall we?

"Dear God, don't know if you noticed, but
Your name is on a lot of quotes in this book...
That us crazy humans wrote,
you should take a look.
'Cause all the people that you made in your image
still believe that junk is true.
Well I know it ain't, and so do you, dear God".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good gracious - I found this when trying to remember what I'd written in letters to the papers! FWIW - probably nothing, but - Ms Raynor and other readers seemed to miss the point I was making, which was really a technical one: if God exists, then the distinction Julian Baggini made in his article between doing what is good for human happiness and doing God's will is meaningless. His invocation of eudaemonism as a godless morality is therefore (philosophically) pointless. (Unless you're going to get into a radically voluntarist view of God, but, nah, it's been tried and it's no that great.) Er, that was it really.

Pedantic academic clarification, sorry...
Best wishes!

Helen Brown