Statesboro, GA, USA
Are all people equally as good if they do equally good things? Or are you saying that a particular religious belief raises one above the others.
I'm sure you know that, as a Christian, I believe that Righteousness before God is only obtained through Jesus Christ. This kind of "goodness" is a passive, legal kind of Righteousness (for lack of better terms), in the sense that it doesn't come from Christians themselves, but from Christ. If this is so, then no amount of "good deeds" can commend any before God as righteous. Because all of us have sin in our very deepest nature.
But in addition to this passive righteousness, there is the fact that true faith in Christ produces a better more virtuous life, in the here and now. This is not a goodness that obtains salvation, but a goodness which is an outflow of gratitude and reverence to God who has given salvation freely. This is where faith demostrates works.
That doesn't make a mere belief, the source of a more virtuous life, but rather the object of that belief, the person of Christ. I have to make that distinction because, admittedly, if it were only a group of people claiming to be "better" because of a mere intellectual belief, that would be unwarranted arrogance. But the belief in Christ, as a personal savior, entails another person's righteousness. And with that comes the awareness of one's own sinfulness. There is a real brokenness and humility that inevitably comes with being a Christian, that should leave no room for personal pride and arrogance. I know what I am without him, and it's all right there ready to overwhelm me, whenever I would stray.
Of course, the difficulty with speaking to a non-believer like yourself, is that it's hard for you to even imagine that my relationship with Christ is anything more than an intellectual belief. If you think I'm duped, you can't even grant me that, theoretically. So our precommitments color our judgements. I can only describe these things to you, and listen to you in turn. Of course, I believe that there is a part of you which in some way, or at sometime has acknowledged God. And believing that God himself, must ultimately reveal this truth in full (in his own time), I do not feel that I must rely on my own persuasions to convince you. But I said all of this to say, the precommitments of belief (either way) brings the believer and unbeliever to an impasse. I guess my only advantage is that I believe God to be on both sides of the chasm.
Now you are sure Ė true believers arenít true believers if they do bad things, true believers canít have blood on their hands.
I'm not sure that true believers can't have blood on their hands. I'm not the judge. But I do believe that true believers will not continue habitually and unchangingly in those kinds of behaviors. The Bible tells us that determined, unrepentant, habitual sin, is a proof of one's "faith" being unreal, and unsaving in nature. Profession of belief in Christ, is not enough, that's for sure. My priority of concern for that application, as the safest approach spirtually, is myself. I do want to always make sure I'm right, in my own spirit, with God ... lest I go correcting others in hypocritical kind of way.
Itís easy to extrapolate from that and say that religion is the cause of such acts; fortunately we have a control group who arenít religious Ė Atheists. We could add weight to our argument that religion increases the chance of such acts if we can prove that Atheists are less likely to commit them. Hereís the rub though, religious people tend to deny that the perpetrators were truly religious.
I don't know if you fully understand my position here. I believe that cause of evil actions, is the indwelling sinful nature of us all. Atheists and religious alike have this problem. But from a Christian standpoint, atheism and false religious doctrine aggravate and perpetuate the problem. This would explain why atheists are not less likely to commit atrocities. Atheism, like false-religion, involves wrong assumptions which may lead to the encouragement of such behavior.
Now here's a difficulty I admit: even true doctrine, which repudiates these kinds of actions, is not a guarantee to good behavior. That is the "law" aspect of Christianity. Much of it may be believed, without any kind of moral transformation, without any real commitment to follow and do what is right. There ARE false believers. If this clouds the issue, then other landmarks must be observed. But, alas, even the truth may be held insincerely.
Now, do I think someone is more likely to live a morally upright life, if they know and believe the truth? Of course I do.
All of this, leads me to believe that:
1) The Fall of Man is reality, and religious and irreligious alike suffer the malady of sin.
2) Even people who believe wrong doctrines, do "good". Being made in the image of God, they retain a desire for "goodness", and a capcity for common goodwill toward their fellows.
3) Knowing true doctrine intellectually is no guarantee to spiritual transformation, and a morally upright life. Though such knowledge is important, there is more to it.
4) True doctrine is a help toward spiritual transformation, salvation, and a morally upright life.