I was attempting to write some thoughts down the other day, and I was thinking about morality. Atheists/non-Christians/non-religious people actually do have morals (it’s true!), even though we don’t believe in the teachings of the bible. It made me realize that, as a Christian, I used to believe that we needed Jesus to find goodness. As a Christian, I probably would have said something like, “We’re all born sinners and can only be redeemed by the shedding of blood by Jesus” (I know, barf).
In the Christian faith, I was taught that we are all born sinners. (Romans 3:23 says, “…for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.”) Before I go on, I need to pause there for a minute and really absorb the magnitude of that statement.
As a child, I was taught that I was inherently bad.
I believed that on my own, there was nothing I could ever do to be good. The only way I could possibly be a good person was to ask Jesus into my heart, where by some magical properties, he would transform my heart and I could be good. And what child doesn’t want more than anything to be good?
Thinking about this now absolutely infuriates me. What kind of bullshit is that? What parent (or teacher, or any other adult influential to children’s lives) tells their kids, “You’re bad!” Now, in my parents’ defense, they never told me that I was bad. Not once, ever. They were kind, loving, wonderful parents and I am grateful to them and to the unconditional love they always showered upon me. However, they did take me to church with them; they allowed me to go to the neighbor’s house every summer for a week of Vacation Bible School, where truthfully, I have the most memory of learning this nonsense. This is just one of a multitude of lies that the church tells us, in order to indoctrinate and ultimately control us. We are actually taught and conditioned to hate ourselves from a young age, for thinking and doing things that are human nature; a part of who we are. Shame as a tool to control people is extremely effective, and the church has this technique perfected.
The Lie: We are all born evil little sinners, we are not capable of being “good” on our own, and we need Jesus to know right from wrong.
The Truth: We are all born as people. Human beings. That’s it. Children come into this world and learn right from wrong from their parents and teachers. They watch the adults closest to them, and follow their lead. We are not born evil! Do I think that some people truly are “evil”? Absolutely, but not by any supernatural standard or power. Usually, those people have some kind of mental illness that really does make it impossible for them to be “good” people. However, my opinion is that for the most part, people really do want to be good. No one grows up with the goal of being an asshole (well, maybe some do). Different temperaments, how you were raised, and life experiences determine the kind of person you are. Do we need Jesus to know that it’s not okay to kill people? Or to steal? Hell fucking no we don’t. First of all, we have laws that tell us not to do those things. And secondly, we have common sense, and (hopefully) our parents taught us better. Some atheists would go on to say that from a biological standpoint, we know that we have to behave a certain way for us to live peacefully in a community, and we know not to bring harm to others because we don’t want any harm to come to us in return. Very true and valid points indeed. Even people born and raised in less-than-savory environments can figure out the difference between right and wrong.
So what is the recipe for being a good person? This question is harder to answer, as all people will have a different idea of what a good person looks like. To me, a good person is kind, loving, forgiving, honest, and caring. Don’t be a dick. Show compassion, try to put yourself in other people’s shoes and forgive them, even if they don’t ask for forgiveness or even deserve it. Go out of your way to do something nice. Kindness can go a long way, and I’m not just talking about the good it does for other people, but for the good it does in you.