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-dís 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-dís ownership will use the world in violation of the will of the Owner Ė 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.