American Atheists are at it again this Christmas season. As part of their annual tradition the past few years, the Atheists organization has raised eyebrows with their latest holiday-theme billboard.
Picturing a smiling Santa, promising not to tell on you, the message reads: “Go ahead and skip church! Just be good for goodness sake. Happy Holidays!” So far, these billboards have popped up in Colorado, Springs, CO and Raleigh, NC.
“We want people to know that going to church has absolutely nothing to do with being a good person,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists, in a statement. “The things that are most important during the holiday season—spending time with loved ones, charity and being merry—have nothing to do with religion.”
National program director for the American Atheists, Nick Fish, admitted that the billboards were strategically placed in markets where atheists’ voices aren’t always heard. “The point is to put them in places where they might stir up a little controversy.”
Fish was a bit more blunt when he said in his prepared statement. “There are tens of millions of atheists in this country. We’re everywhere. And we don’t need church or gods to tell us how to be good people.”
First of all, both Silverman and Fish might be surprised that there are many Christians who celebrate Christmas in the same secular way as they do apart from religious rites or rituals. Since the Christmas holiday is not commanded in Scripture and came into existence centuries following the completion of Biblical revelation, the holiday season is viewed from a different perspective.
Secondly, I admit there are many “good people” who are not Christians. They treat people right. They are good citizens. Good husbands and wives. Good fathers and mothers. Good sons and daughters. They seek social good and do good to the less fortunate.
But it raises the question, why are they good? What is their basis for being good? What influences them to do good?
Values, morals and ethics must have a source. “If there is no Moral Law Giver (God),” wrote Norman Geisler, “then how can there be a moral law that prescribes: “Be good.” Every prescription has a prescriber, and this is a moral prescription.”
In Psalm 107 the writer frequently acknowledged that God is good and called on mankind to “give thanks for the Lord for his goodness.” James, the brother of Jesus, penned, ” Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (Jas 1:17)
Good and goodness comes from God whether we recognize it or not. The values and morals on which America was founded are rooted in the Judeo-Christian ethic. The Golden Rule of treating others the way we want to be treated (Matt 7:12), and the second great command to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22:37-40) have impacted society either directly or indirectly.
Without God there is no basis for goodness. Atheist Jean Paul Satre, the famous French philosopher admitted, “I was like a man who’s lost his shadow. And there was nothing left in heaven, not right or wrong, nor anyone to give me orders” (The Flies, Act III).
Furthermore, how do you define goodness apart from God? What does it mean to be good? What is the standard for goodness? If there is no objective definition, then everyone is left to define goodness for himself. This becomes relativism. It creates chaos. And results in people committing despicable acts but calling them good.
History records the problem of redefining what is good based upon man’s lust as the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!” (Isa 5:20-21).
Indeed, “If God does not exist, everything is permissible.” Our “new morality,” which is just an “old immorality” dressed in new garb certainly reflects that moral axiom. Sadly, what once generally accepted as evil is now called good. So much for goodness apart from God.
True goodness enriches homes. Ennobles society. Elevates the spirit. Stimulates self-improvement. Generates good-will. Promotes peace. Sanctifies sexual relationships. Advances brotherhood. Encourages ethics. Improves morals. Generates generous giving. Blesses the broken-hearted. Fosters faithfulness. Multiplies ministry. And glorifies God (Matt 5:14-16).
God calls us to “be good.” Not for goodness’ sake. But for God’s sake.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman