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Atheist Essay Contest: What is Good without God?

What is good if there is no God? Atheists want to know. I'm serious. They'll actually pay to find out, according to The Examiner.

In a world without God, good, it would seem to me, could only mean what you or a finite group of people consider good for a certain amount of time. The definition would be perennially up for debate and revotes.

But I'm pretty sure $1,000 would be pretty cool for anyone.

The United Coalition of Reason is delighted to announce an essay contest as part of our upcoming Good Without God campaign tied not only to a social movement but to a book that’s being published in the fall. Please forward this message as widely as possible and help us unite the millions of voices of reason across the country.

The contest is simple. Please tell us your personal story, in 500 words or less: what does it mean for you to be Good Without God? How do you live out your positive values as a Humanist, atheist, agnostic, secularist, or freethinker? Please write in the first person.
I love that last line. Please write in the first person. It seems to me that if you're an atheist I don't see why you'd bother in writing but anything but the first person. Not that I haven't met good people who are agnostic if not atheist. I just see them as borrowing heavily from the Christian traditions without even knowing it.

I think if I had to write something like this the only thing I could think of that would be good without God would be the $1,000 they're offering to the winner. In short, I would be a very bad atheist.

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Anonymous said...

So, 30 pieces of silver is worth $1,000 in today's dollars, sounds about right.

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

What if we all wrote essays saying, "Good without God isn't anything" - but longer and leading up to it, of course. We probably wouldn't win the $1000, but we might just get someone to think about things.

Or we could treat it like I did a Poetry.com contest a while ago - give exactly what they want, except slightly off so as to be meaningless or contradictory of the actual thing. This option is especially good for the snarky.

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Crimes for which you go uncaught! Those are really good without God! If you don't receive punishment in this life and there's no judgement, then doing nasty things to your enemies, embezzling large sums of money, etc. would be really, really good. (Thank God I'm not an atheist... no really. You should all thank God.)

Rick said...

The more rational entries will end up substituting God with the State or the community - something bigger than oneself. It can provide meaning but not fulfillment because of the imperfections of these entities. So, it may provide a roundabout way back to God by way of discovering the inadequacies of idols.

SherryTex said...

I believe Camus already answered this question...and Sarte accused him of having a leap of faith for trying to find value and ascribe morality when there isn't any without something beyond here and now.

If they are honest, it means they won't get arrested. Being good means being lawful in a society absent God. Everything else is personal discernment based on preference.

Robert said...

I think the really hard part isn't trying to explain "good" apart from God, but trying to explain "good" in a materialist, anti-teleological, anti-nature philosophy (which contemporary atheistic materialism is).

It may be possible to describe what "the good" is if one holds that natures and ends exist, but this sort of Platonic or Aristotelian view is pretty much universally rejected by contemporary atheists.

It isn't so much that good is incompatible with atheism, as much as it is incompatible with the brand of materialism they advocate.

Now, what I said being true, I would suspect that any philosophical system which supported natures and ends would ultimately also support God. Teleology, after all, is used in support of a sustaining intelligence in St. Thomas's argument. But nevertheless, the question of "God" and "good" would be independent.

The real irony, by the way, in writing in the "first person" is that contemporary materialist atheism denies the existence of any real "self." It might be better to respond to them that there is no "I" and that, thus, you will not write with it.

God bless,

The Barefoot Bum said...

Pure slave morality, and an appalling ignorance about atheism and materialism. Pathetic.

I don't mind so much Christians being mistaken, even deeply mistaken. But you guys seem to take so much pride in your ignorance and stupidity it seems hardly worth the time and effort to try to educate you.

"Never try to teach a pig how to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig."

Anonymous said...

Barefoot, explain "slave morality". I know the term "slave mentality" which is (accurately) ascribed to Christian decendants of slaves who were brought up in the churches of their masters (i.e. Baptists).

If you think posting on this board (or any board dealing with Christian themes) is "pathetic" and hardly worth time and effort, then why pray tell did you bother? Was it simply to vent steam due to your own misery? Or was it to engage in dialogue? It doesn't sound like you're very good at the latter.

Rick said...

I would not be surprised if the abortion industry were behind this. There is a need to establish an alternate value system that does not condemn them so the first step is to deny the existence of God.

Robert said...


Slave morality, if I have Barefoot's reference correctly, is a Nietzschean term. Slave morality, according to Nietzsche, is a turning upside down of real life-affirming morality in favor of a morality which favors the weak and penalizes the strong. The Jews started this flipping of authentic moral values. Nietzsche cries out instead for, "the revaluation of all value." I don't know what the classical place in Nietzsche's writings is for this, but a perusal of the Anti-Christ might yield some fruitful reading if you want to grasp a hold of it.

As to why he bothered to post here, I suppose it's simply a typical thing which Nietzscheans do. Overblown and polemical criticism is just something to expect.

If Barefoot Bum comes back with any arguments, we of course, would be happy to argue with him. Emotional bluster, though, is not an argument and so cannot be refuted with an argument.

God bless,

Anonymous said...

Rob, thank you, and agreed.

Scott W. said...

I've encountered the "atheism is not materialism" retort before (here it is expressed as us supposedly "appalling ignorance" about both), but I have yet to find a difference that made a real difference as the conversation proceeded. It reminds me of non-Catholics who say it's "SolA Scriptura, not SolO scriptura". Very cute, but in the final analysis, both ended up in the same antinomian chaos. It just took extra steps to get there in some cases.

Anonymous said...

I just got to ask how you people who say that without god you would be terrible people could be ok with that. In reality most atheist are more 'christian' than you because they are still 'good' people without believing in some inevitable consequence. I'd just like to point out that with out religion there would be less war, people would rely on themselves instead of some allpowerful invisible friend, and instead of donating money to this invisible friend we would spend it on real things such as disease research or space exploration or pretty much anything that could be beneficial in the smallest way. I personally think we do need religion in order to keep certain people from going on a mass killing spree but why do you got fuck with those who don't need to believe in hell in order not to screw over everyone else.

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