CAN YOU BE GOOD WITHOUT G-D?


1. Distinguish between good actions and good agents

                    a. saving person in order to rob him - good action but bad agent

b. causing disaster in attempt to help [bloodletting] - good agent but bad action

                    c. two questions: good actions without G-d, or good agent without G-d?

2. Actions can be wrong due to ignorance: child to unrecognized parent in need, trespassing and stealing apples due to hole in the fence

3. Moral obligations to G-d

a. gratitude is owed to anyone who provides benefit, therefore greatest debt of gratitude to G-d; one who is ignorant of this debt and does not repay it by following G-ds commandments is acting wrongly

b. owner has moral prerogative (within limits) to determine the use of his property, therefore G-d can determine the use of the world [which is His property since He created it ex nihilo]; one who is ignorant of G-ds ownership will use the world in violation of the will of the Owner that use is wrong

c. we have a moral relationship with G-d which makes His commandments morally binding (therefore no distinction between "moral" and "ritual" commandments)]

4. The atheist's actions do not fulfill his obligations to G-d, therefore they are not (all) good; but he may have good character since the bad actions were performed due to ignorance

5. Good character (and actions) can be cultivated: education, example, cultural values and practices can help create better agents and actions.

a. secular adult America is uninterested in moral improvement - little effort, no moral heroes, low standards

                    b. Torah life-style devotes great effort, many heroes, has high standards

c. Torah life-style is successful in producing generally better moral character and actions (though there are exceptions)

6. The answer: actions cannot be (all) good without living up to obligations to G-d; moral character may be good without G-d, but it is very difficult and unlikely.


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