If you are a good Catholic


#1

In my opinion at least, if you one day become an atheist (this is a hypothetical, don't say something like "good Catholics would never become atheists"...it is a stupid argument and doesn't contribute to the thread at all.) your actions towards others should not change.

Basically, if one day you thought that there was no hell or heaven and that there would neither be a punishment or reward, a good person would continue to do good and not change their actions from when they thought there was an eternal reward or punishment. You shouldn't be doing good to avoid hell or to assure heaven. You should be doing good to help your fellow man.

What do you guys think of this? If you didn't believe in hell or heaven, would your actions change at all (at least actions towards other people)? Would you be meaner or less helpful because you knew that in the end you would not go to hell for it and you would just cease to exist anyway? I think that if you answer that you wouldn't be as nice or helpful, you should examine your motivations and really contemplate if God is going to view your actions as truly righteous if you only do them as a means to getting to heaven and avoiding hell.

(And this thread is hypothetical. If you read it and say "well I would never become an atheist so this doesn't apply to me" you have really, REALLY missed the point of the thread).


#2

Let me see now, according to you, people should behave as good Catholics should, even without the support of prayer, the sacraments, the community of believers? Or do you think that if someone who was Catholic became an atheist, they should still attend Mass and receive the sacraments (because you said their behavior should not change), they would still be part of the community in their church, their Bible study, their prayer group, and have that support, even if they don’t believe in God who is the basis of that support?

If they are not Catholic, what incentive do you see for them to continue to do good works, other than whatever respect they have for your opinion? And why should they care about your opinion, if they don’t care about the opinion of Jesus, His Blessed Mother, the Holy Father, or my opinion (which is that they should remain Catholic)?


#3

No, I think you've missed the point. No matter what you say, if I were to suddenly decide that God and heaven don't exist, doing good things has no point at all, and if there's nothing beyond this miserable world, then what's wrong with murder and abortion since it stops somebody from being miserable here with the rest of us.

I'm sorry, your point doesn't make any sense.


#4

Just to be clear, when you say “you’ve missed the point” are you addressing my answer to the O.P. or the O.P.? I think you were addressing the original question, because I think that you and I were typing at the same time, but I want to be sure.


#5

What you ask is impossible to answer.
How can one say how they would believe or act if their foundational beliefs change?

I agree that we should not act as good Christians simply based upon reward or punishment, yet it is an inescapable that this is “mercenary” outlook is where most of start from - Just like small Children are taught by reward and punishment. What we need to do is to grow past this - To nurture Love and reach a point where we do all things for the Love of God and neighbor.

As to acting in the same way while not believing in heaven or hell, that is in believing in salvation, I can only say that in rejecting salvation one rejects eternal Life with God. No amount of “good works” will overcome this.

Peace
James


#6

Well I’d probably stop going to mass- other than that, I can’t say.


#7

God is love. Without God, one cannot love. One can have emotional fondness or attraction, sympathy and kindness - but not love.

When things get bad, when life piles on a person - the one thing that keeps a person from becoming "it is all about me and screw the other guy" is love. Without God, life is all about me and how I feel.


#8

[quote="ljubim, post:3, topic:180261"]
No, I think you've missed the point. No matter what you say, if I were to suddenly decide that God and heaven don't exist, doing good things has no point at all, and if there's nothing beyond this miserable world, then what's wrong with murder and abortion since it stops somebody from being miserable here with the rest of us.

I'm sorry, your point doesn't make any sense.

[/quote]

Well thank God that you believe in heaven and hell or else you would be a sociopath apparently.


#9

[quote="RSD, post:2, topic:180261"]

If they are not Catholic, what incentive do you see for them to continue to do good works, other than whatever respect they have for your opinion?

[/quote]

Exactly,

Without an absolute reference, one cannot define what 'good' is. Anybody's defintion is just as correct as anyone elses, from Mother Theresa to Adolf Hitler.

Both were convinced they were doing good.


#10

The morality of man fails when compared to the morality of God. Man on his own can not please God.

Sin is a condition of the heart. It is not merely the sinful act itself but it is the heart of man that is sinful and rebellious to God.

Jesus said, "It is not what enters one's mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one." (Mt 15:11). Jesus explains the meaning of this statement by saying:
" Do you not realize that everything that enters the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled into the latrine?
But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile.
For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.

These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile." (Mt 15:17-20).

You see sin is a condition of the heart and Jesus is a doctor.

'The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus said to them in reply, "**Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.**
**I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.**"' (Luke 5:30-32)

The remedy that Christ offers us for the sinful condition of our hearts is his repentance and forgiveness and justification that was purchased for us through the sacrifice on the cross and secondly the receiving of the Spirit of Christ into our hearts. Because the Spirit searches our hearts and our minds and brings us into conformity to God's way. Something we could not do on our own. The Spirit heals the sinful condition of our heart. If we receive the Spirit and live by the Spirit then we shall be sons of God.

"For the concern of the flesh is hostility toward God; it does not submit to the law of God, nor can it;
and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness." (Rom 8:6-10)


#11

I dont know, but when I was an agnostic, I acted towards people differently than I try to do now. I was only "nice" to people when it was easy or convenient for me.. when it was difficult or went against my pride, I didn't even try. I'm not saying all unbelievers are like this, but I was, and I have noticed that Christians try harder to be kind people...at least the faithful Christians.

God bless


#12

[quote="RSD, post:4, topic:180261"]
Just to be clear, when you say "you've missed the point" are you addressing my answer to the O.P. or the O.P.? I think you were addressing the original question, because I think that you and I were typing at the same time, but I want to be sure.

[/quote]

No, we were just typing at the same time. :D


#13

You state that we should "do good to help our fellow man." The reason we do good is to follow the example of Jesus. Without the desire to know and love God, there would be no desire to help anyone but myself.


#14

If one became an atheist then the very essence of who they are would change. Their objective would change and therefore their outward acts, while seeming similar, would stem from a changed outlook. The very basis for love would redefine and have no foundation other than the immediate understanding of the act itself. So, in reality there would no longer be any accountability to anyone other than the person who changed.

So, yes, outward acts may "seem" like they don't change but in reality there is a great change indeed. A man may smile at his wife while being married to her with all the love one could give and then that same man may smile at her after he returns the kids from a weekend visit after the divorce. The smile looks the same but the basis has totally changed................... teachccd


#15

I am just curious…do you guys even know any atheists? Some of the nicest people I know are atheists. And to be honest, they follow Jesus’ teachings on ethics more than many Christians I know. Did you guys know you don’t need to believe in God to be a good person? I am just dumbfounded by some of the responses on this thread. I am good to people because I believe it is the right thing to do. I don’t think about going to heaven or hell when I am helping someone out. You should do things for the love of your fellow man, not because you think there is an afterlife and maybe you will have a good one if you are nice.


#16

JMJ

We are supposed to do good and avoid evil for love of God, not because we fear going to hell, but as Fr. Corapi said “if you can’t muster love for God, fear of hell isn’t a bad place to start.”

If we lost faith and became an atheists, well, who determines - in our mind - what is right and what is wrong? What is “good” behavior and what is “bad”? Is abortion okay, or is it not? Is contraception wrong or is it not? Is consensual incest wrong? Is it wrong for a 15 year old to sleep with her 45 year old teacher? Do I need to continue here?

Anyway, if good isn’t done for love of God, what is it really worth? *Why *is it being done? Pure love of neighbor? Probably not.

Pax.


#17

[quote="prettylarge, post:1, topic:180261"]
In my opinion at least, if you one day become an atheist (this is a hypothetical, don't say something like "good Catholics would never become atheists"...it is a stupid argument and doesn't contribute to the thread at all.) your actions towards others should not change.

Basically, if one day you thought that there was no hell or heaven and that there would neither be a punishment or reward, a good person would continue to do good and not change their actions from when they thought there was an eternal reward or punishment. You shouldn't be doing good to avoid hell or to assure heaven. You should be doing good to help your fellow man.

What do you guys think of this? If you didn't believe in hell or heaven, would your actions change at all (at least actions towards other people)? Would you be meaner or less helpful because you knew that in the end you would not go to hell for it and you would just cease to exist anyway? I think that if you answer that you wouldn't be as nice or helpful, you should examine your motivations and really contemplate if God is going to view your actions as truly righteous if you only do them as a means to getting to heaven and avoiding hell.

(And this thread is hypothetical. If you read it and say "well I would never become an atheist so this doesn't apply to me" you have really, REALLY missed the point of the thread).

[/quote]

I did once become an atheist (more an anti-theist) and was confronted with this issue. While I did not commit any crimes, nor did others any physical harm. I can be accused of having committed many "crimes against Divine Law and against my neighbours and myself".

Now this is a topic which always comes up as if atheists were somewhat "better" for doing "good for the sake of it".

As an atheist, I have been wondering about purpose and the meaning of my actions. I came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as objective godless morality. Even the argument that "being nice" is benefical did not impress me the least: there were cases where I would have gained more of the moment by not being nice at all. So if one wonders about what one does in life: you will be faced with the question about meaning. Morality is tied very much to objective truth. Even if I were to do what may be deemed "good" by some: it would not matter at all. I may as well turn a murderer and get jailed or killed. And then what? Who says that being alive is always better than death? The idea that there can be some type of objective secular morality is not there because there exists a real alternative to the theistic perspective which people have come to know by use of reason, but rather because people do not wish to be tied to the objective moral standards of God: because there is always something objectively wrong in our desires.

And thus I came to the conclusion that without an eternal purpose, life is objectively meaningless.

And when it comes to being a "good person": that is decided not by our subjective views, but by God's Will. What is done according to His will is what is truly good.


#18

Without objective truth, “nice” becomes a relative term. Remove all believers from the face of the earth and let’s, for a moment, live in a world where God is not even known. We would be just creatures of circumstance and an evolved social structure. Now, by whose authority do we live? Who would be “right” and who would be “wrong”? Would authority be born out of majority? Who could tell someone who finds pleasure in molesting children that the act is wrong? By whose standards? As an evolved clump of cells that only survived through natural selection, how can we ultimately know what is good for someone? Wouldn’t “good” only be good if it pleased oneself?

When a doctor gives a child a shot the child will cry because of the stinging needle. Shouldn’t we stop that since it appears to be bad or is the vaccination a good thing since we have an authoritative basis that proves otherwise? Without an objective moral truth (God) we only have appearances of what might be good or bad. We have no solid basis for our judgments. It all becomes relative to societies reactions. Gay marriage? Sure why not. Abortions? Who cares. and so on. It all boils down to a matter of opinion.

Yes, one can love even as an atheist but that is because there is a God and atheists cannot make Him go away. You are made in the image and likeness of God whether you know it or not, God is love and without Him you would have no knowledge of any moral values. This is intrinsic behavior that separates us from animals who cannot discern morality.

Frankly, I am dumbfounded that you can call your actions good when I might think otherwise and you have no authority to say that I am wrong… teachccd


#19

Yes, pure love of your neighbor. Buddhist monks don’t believe in God but do believe in love of neighbors. And you don’t need to believe in God to understand morality. If you think that you are sorely mistaken.


#20

I am just going to tell you that a lot of people in the world think that the world would be a better place if the notion of God was eliminated and all believers were eliminated.

OK, this thread is now prompting me to ask this question:

Do you think it is possible for an atheist to live a life in which they are constantly helping others and putting others in front of themselves? Is this possible? And if it is possible, does that mean that someone can come up with a good moral system without the help of God?

You might answer that “well God is behind that moral system of the atheist.” Well if that is true, then an atheist can come up with a great moral system, even if it is through God’s helping without them knowing it. And they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart, not because they want to go to heaven and avoid hell. In my opinion, that is much more admirable.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.