The Source of Good

Have you ever heard something like this?

“How do we define ‘good’ if we don’t believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what’s good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what’s good, it’s going to be a crazy world.”

I have. I frequently hear just this sort of thing.

Really? We don’t know what good is unless it’s in the bible? Like the avoidance of wearing mixed linens, lest we be stoned? Owning slaves? Avoiding certain kinds of foods? (OK, well, Brussels Sprouts do suck.) Offering up your daughters for rape to avoid inconveniencing your out-of-town guests? Seriously?

It seems to me that “goodness” had to start in early history at least in the way of self-interest. In fact, scientists (those are those agents-of-Satan who keep unconvering inconvenient facts about our world and universe! But do not fall for their lies!!!) believe what separated the earliest humans from other primates was their cooperation. Our ancestors helped each other and advanced society, while our competitors flung crap at one another.

If you are an early man and you go out and attack a mammoth by yourself, there might be a high probability of getting gored or stomped. . If you go out with your cave friends, you can team up and you can kill the mammoth and share the meat. Cavemen live. Cavemen happy.

Say you get some ticks or leeches on your hairy caveman back. Even with your extended caveman arms, you and your caveman friends are unable to reach your own backs to pull them out. If you remove the ticks from another caveman’s back, he will probably reciprocate in the hopes that you will do it next time as well.

But If you eat another caveman’s share of mammoth meat while he’s sleeping, you may get your head smashed in by a large rock. So being “good” is nice, but for developing brains, it’s also in one’s basic self-interest.

Chimpanzees have even exhibited altruistic behavior towards each other without a promised exchange of goods or services. But maybe it was only them  who read the bible?

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5 thoughts on “The Source of Good”

  1. Most people think self-interest is pretty easy to understand, but when you look at the long term, self-interest requires looking out for others! “Being good” is a social contract.

  2. I read somewhere once that ticks are packed with protein. Maybe someone will invent the Tick Diet soon.

  3. It work this way Eric. The Bible’s Old Testament depicts how you’re NOT supposed to behave, so you do the opposite. The New Testament demonstrates what happens when you follow this path – crucifixion and stonings.

    BTW, when I told some members of my congregation at the church I used to belong to that I was a Democrat, one lady told me she didn’t see how I could be and call myself a christian too.

  4. Really? I have always learned that if you don’t accept the bible there is no chance of being good. But my question has always been: Altruism is being good for goodness sake. When a “bible-bearing” person does good, he does good for the sake of the reward or afterlife so he is not being truly good as he has a selfish motive. It’s stuff like this that makes my head explode. Excellent post!

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