General Question

JLeslie's avatar

Theists: Why is it important to you that I believe in God, or even acknowledge the existence of God, if I conduct my life in a manner consistent with your moral code?

Asked by JLeslie (65568points) July 13th, 2009

I have seen statistics that people do not trust atheists, would not trust an atheist as president. If their actions and record demonstrate all of the qualities you look for in a President? Why would you get caught up on whether he believed in God or not?

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66 Answers

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

it’s part of the reason I don’t have faith. If there is a heaven and hell, and I’m a genuinely good person it shouldn’t much matter by what name I call god, if at all.

Les's avatar

As a theist, I do not care nor do I want you to acknowledge the existence of God. I’ll believe what I want, you can believe what you want.

Please stop grouping all people who believe in God in this one, extremist group who knock on doors and hand out pamphlets about God. Religion is not polar. There are many levels of belief. I would never try to convert someone to my belief.

Thammuz's avatar

@Les: good to know there still are people like you around…

ragingloli's avatar

Atheists are the least trusted minority in america, and i think it has to do with the mindset among many that to be a moral person, you have to be religious. So following that assumption, many think that atheists are immoral and that an atheist president would invariably destroy america somehow. Some even equate atheism with devil worshipping.

JLeslie's avatar

@les I know not all theists think all atheists have to believe in God. Sorry if I worded it poorly. I am talking to the ones that do, I am trying to understand them, I already understand you, you are like me, it is a personal choice and we both respect the choice. Thanks for your comment.

Thammuz's avatar

@ragingloli What do you care? you’re in Germany!

ragingloli's avatar

The Fatherland cares about the world!

Jayne's avatar

Wait, I don’t have to worship the devil to be an atheist? Sweet! The pentacle was really taking up space in my living room.

On a more serious note, I think that many believers, those who would not elect an atheist, do not think that you follow the same moral code as them, because worshiping god is as integral to their morality as is, say, not killing people. In addition, there are plenty of people who think that having an atheist president, or even a significant atheist population, would bring down God’s wrath on the nation, just like letting gays marry or allowing abortions. Then there are those who think they are doing you a favor by saving you from an eternity of fire and brimstone. And finally, some sects, most notably the Jehovah’s Witnesses, are commanded by doctrine to convert as many non-beievers as possible in service to their own salvation.

cwilbur's avatar

I think that in the end everyone will be reconciled to God, and so it really isn’t that important to me that you believe in God now.

If I’m right, then it’s just a matter of time; you’ll see the truth eventually, and if I try to harangue you into believing as I do, I’ll just waste my time and annoy both of us.

If I’m wrong, then I’m wrong, and if I try to harangue you into believing as I do, I won’t do either of us any good.

JLeslie's avatar

@cwilbur but do you trust me the same as you would trust a theist?

Thammuz's avatar

@cwilbur The most reasonable theist position i heard so far. One which accepts it might be wrong.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

@Jayne the pentacle is a pretty huge misrepresentation in satanism by the way. just a fun fact :).

sap82's avatar

Its not important to me for any reason except for the christian mission to share the good news of Jesus Christ. I can share the news with you, but it is your choice to take it or leave it. Past that, I could give two shits about your political concerns involving christianity. It doesn’t really matter if the pres is atheist or not. Americans christians seem to be under the mistaken impression that no atheists = victory for God. That is not true. Believe what ever you want. Your the atheist. Why are you so concerned?

Judi's avatar

@JLeslie ; I think that a lot of Christians hear “The Great Commission” .. “Go therefore and make Disciples of all nations…” and think it means to do it by force. There are two kinds of people who can sometimes get it wrong (at least 2 anyway.) One is the one who genuinely loves you and is fearful for your eternal soul. I see them as not trusting that God is in control and trying to make sure that you are “saved,” by their own efforts at converting you.
The other is the one who is sanctimonious and feels like they are right and everybody else had better listen to them. They are arrogant to think that they alone understand God.
I try to be the kind of Christian who is available if needed, but I don’t try to create opportunities for ministry. If I see someone hurting I will help. If I see someone hungry I’ll feed them.
“Preach the gospel always, If necessary use words.” St. Francis of Assisi

JLeslie's avatar

@sap82 not concerned at all—interested. Maybe my assumptions on why it is important to some people are wrong, so I was testing the waters.

SuperMouse's avatar

I trust atheists as much as I trust theists. Some of my best friends are atheist. As much as I think it would be wonderful for everyone to open up to what the Baha’i teaches, I am not going to badger anyone about it and I am not going to dislike anyone if they chose not to believe. If I believed in his political values and believed he would do good things for American and its citizens I would vote for an atheist for president.

whitenoise's avatar

Driving up to the traffic lights, I used to play a game with my children. I used to “enchant” the traffic lights upon approach in order to make them turn green. Especially when we were in our city where the lights have car-sensors in the roads, the kids were highly surprised with the result.

J&M (my kids) now do the same every now and then. When they fail, they try again at the next light and they are highly satisfied when the light turns to green right when we arrive at the light. Sometimes they forget for weeks and then they pick up the habit again. Lately, they have begun blaming me, when the light doesn’t react in time. They would blame me, for instance, for not joining in their chant or to chant in the wrong way. While playing, they really want me to join them in their reverence of our city’s traffic lights.

My kids know that it is just a game. They realize it even while they’re playing, yet they are still seriously frustrated if they feel it is my fault the lights don’t work. I guess religion to many people is far more serious than the game my kids play, but the mechanism is similar.

On top… The way I understand it, religious people truly love their God. Pretty much the same way I love my children. I cannot imagine somebody not seeing how fantastic they are and every time I come across someone who seems to not agree with my opinion of how great my kids are, I can’t help myself for feeling somewhat offended.

And… as said by others, some religious people truly don’t care.

nebule's avatar

I’m not one of those people… btw… but I think it’s because they feel sorry for everyone else that isn’t enlightened and I personally think its the height of patronization!

Some Christians tend to think they are right and others are wrong… I try not believe in right and wrong… it lends itself to the creation of wars

cwilbur's avatar

@JLeslie: I’ve run into trustworthy atheists and untrustworthy theists. I don’t think there’s any statistically valid correlation there in the first place.

So yes, I trust you as much as I trust a random theist, which is to say, not at all until I see further evidence of trustworthiness.

JLeslie's avatar

I want to say that most theists I personally know trust atheists, and never try to change my thoughts on God, etc. But, the president thing has been in the media lately, and I have had several people over the years ask me where do I get my morality from if I don’t believe in God. So, I want to reassure you I am not lumping all theists together.

Jack79's avatar

I don’t have such a problem. You are free to believe whatever you want, as long as you don’t try to force it on me. I actually have a much larger problem with religious fanatics than with atheists. And I’d actually be more willing to vote for an atheist politician than one that says stuff like “in God we trust” or “this is a Holy war” or “with God on our side”.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

Being a “good person” alone doesn’t get you into Heaven. Christians wouldn’t trust an atheist president because we wouldn’t feel like we could rely on him to make the right moral decisions. Anyone can change their opinion of which morals to follow, but if you are a Christian you feel convicted to make the right choice.

ragingloli's avatar

I find it hard to see how you can rely on fellow christians to make the right moral decisions, simply by virtue of them being christian.
especially since the US is predominantly christian, yet has a much higher crime rate than less christian nations, like sweden or japan.

avalmez's avatar

i guess just a couple of points. first, not all theists are christian of course. it seems that flutherites all too often tend to lump theists together as christians.

second, where some christians are concerned, they do so because they feel commissioned to do so. however, my observation has been that most christians are not evangelical and so while most christians think as the question describes, the majority do not act on their feelings.

avalmez's avatar

@ragingloli i don’t think there’s a correlation between professed religion and crime. many people are raised in a certain religion and tend to profess they belong to that religion even though they are not active and in fact are secular.

take catholics for example. largest christian religion in the world. yet, throughout the us and europe, catholics are by and large secular (else, i hang out with the “wrong” crowd, you know:). no, actually, i believe the pope has even voiced strong concerns about rising secularism amongst his flock.

point is, what people profess to and what actually guides them are not the same things.

augustlan's avatar

@BBSDTfamily Surely you are not suggesting that all Christians will do the right and moral thing, simply by virtue of being Christian? Humans are, well, human no matter their religious affiliation. We have all seen examples of public figures (many of them Christian) who have failed in the moral arena.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I don’t undersrand why it is so unreasonable to expect people to respect the spiritual beliefs of others.

CMaz's avatar

First, it is about whose team you are on. And when it comes to votes you better be on the larger team.

Second, atheists are absolute. NO GOD. Theists are at least open to other possibilities.

Third, large world population believes in some sort of God. Might not be your God. But having one, evens the playing field a bit more.
That common, bond or understanding.

JLeslie's avatar

@BBSDTfamily So, you think a non-Christian is more likely to do an immoral or bad act than a Christian? Is, it because you think non-Christians don’t fear punishment from God, or is it because you think non-Christians cannot only have the conviction of doing the right thing if they believe in God? Or, something else? I am not trying to argue, I want to know, to understand…no judgement.

ragingloli's avatar

“Second, atheists are absolute. NO GOD.”
Not true. I am not absolutely sure that God does not exist. Just 99.98 percent.

Jayne's avatar

@ChazMaz; atheists aren’t open to the idea of a god. Theists aren’t open to the idea of no god. How is one more open-minded than the other. This is ignoring the strict definition of “atheist”, as “not believing in god” rather than “believing in no god”, which (since there many things to believe in aside from just God, makes them much more open-minded or diverse than theists.

CMaz's avatar

“Theists aren’t open to the idea of no god.”

I have to say not true.
I believe, and this is the problem. Theists (a great deal) operate with blinders on.
“Because the bible tells me so”

It is not that there is no God. But theists see as it has to be that old guy looking down on us. To truly understand the existence of “GOD” you have to think out side the box. Not really that hard.
They need to stop putting the face of man on God.

cwilbur's avatar

@BBSDTfamily: We just suffered through eight years of a President who was vocally and outspokenly Christian, and yet appeared to have no moral compass greater than enriching his family and his cronies. Please do not try to tell me that Christians are inherently more moral and trustworthy than atheists, because there are several painful object lessons that demonstrate that that is simply not the case.

avalmez's avatar

i don’t think the issue is about open mindedness actually. rather, i think it’s about tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others. and in that regards, yahoo’s exist all along the spectrum from atheist to polytheist. but in polite settings such a fluther, i do note atheists tend to be less accepting of theists than the opposite. i mean just the other day someone posted a question that asked theists if in a certain situation they would be “more crazy than Atheist already think you are”. why is that necessary?

CMaz's avatar

I run a very large Christian business. One of my key people are atheist. Good man and a good friend. Better then some Christian people I know.
If the cooperate office knew, he would be let go like yesterday and replaced with someone that loves Jesus but would not know how to get the job done.
My “atheist” employee, is key to the operations of the company, good spirit and the fact he has no problem working around a bunch of “holy rollers” makes him an even better person.
THAT is what being a christian (theists) is all about.

PupnTaco's avatar

GQ and GAs all around.

Ivan's avatar


Therefore the morality of a Christian is to be automatically trusted more than the morality of an atheist?

CMaz's avatar

As a Christian that does not fly with me. Your faith is between you and God or yourself.
Can I trust you? Will you stand by my side in hard times? That is what is important to me.

But, being in a world of pack animals. Majority rules.

tinyfaery's avatar

Maybe it’s just me, but I put less trust in theists. I want to know that decisions are based on reason not faith.

JLeslie's avatar

@BBSDTfamily I realize a lot of people on this thread are trying to tell you why your thinking is wrong. I am not interested in telling you that. I am interested in understanding what is behind your thinking. How you drew the conclusion to trust a Christian to make a right deision because of his convictions? Is it taught to you in the chruch? Did your parents raise you that way? Did you come to the conclusion because of some interactions and observations you may have witnessed by atheists? So you live in a place where 95% of the people around you are Christian, and so you have not had a lot of interaction with non-christians, maybe you don’t know what they really think, what values they have? Sorry to single you out, but I think you are the only one here who actually is a theist and agrees with the many people who are cited in the statistic about not trusting atheists and a president who is an atheist.

CMaz's avatar

No matter what you believe, sometime you still have to have faith.

tinyfaery's avatar

I have no faith. Sad, I know.

ekans's avatar

I think that accepting others and not making their faith or lack thereof an issue is what being a good person is all about, not necessarily just what being a Christian is about. If the situation were to be reversed, I would not fire a knowledgeable, trustworthy Christian working in an Atheist business. Even without the Christian moral code, I come to the same answer as you. Good people are good people in my eyes, regardless of religion.

CMaz's avatar

Right, and they will burn in hell soon enough.
Just hopefully while not on the clock!


dalepetrie's avatar

@JLeslie – if you were going for good conversation with people who mostly wonder that same thing, then you picked the right forum. If you were looking for a wide sampling of evangelicals, then this probably wasn’t the best place to ask.

My beliefs are like yours, to be very specific about what they are, I don’t actually call myself an “atheist” and I think there is an important distinction to be made, one which I would put forth would anyone ever choose to question me on the topic.

To me, via the definition of atheist, it conjures to me the image of someone who simply does not belive in God, period, end of discussion. To me, atheism and adherence to a particular religious dogma without any question, without any ability to question the answers one has arrived at are both closed off ways of thinking, and though I personally do not have faith in a particular God, nor do I suspect one exists, I too would have somewhat of a problem voting for a person who was an avowed atheist in the sense of the word meaning, no God, not possible.

My belief is that it is unlikely…highly unlikely in fact that there is a “God” as we understand the concept. I believe that most of the religious systems of belief which I have encountered have more to to with mysticism and gullibility, and a need to know the answers to the 3 questions where the answers are so far unknowable…“where did we come from”, “why are we here”, and “what happens when we die?” I believe that inasmuch as there may be an ultimate purpose for mankind, it may well have to do with answering those very questions, but for now, all we have is theory.

Now religious theory in my opinion, hell, not even in my opinion, just plain IS elevated in our society to the same status as scientific theory. However, a scientific theory is based on direct observations over a long time period, hypotheses are formed, and tested and retested and retested, by different people with different points of view over decades at minimum. A scientific theory is something that has stood up to countless repeated tests by a significant enough number of people that it is no longer subject to testing bias, and once it has been upheld over and over and over again, it becomes a scientific theory. In fact, gravity is still a theory, but it’s one that has worked so well for so long and has repeatedly and consistently held up to centuries of testing.

A religious theory has nothing more persuasive to offer than that people believe in it. There is no objective test, there is nothing one can observe and develop a test for that can be replicated by religious people all over the planet. So, due to this, I think a lot of people who consider themselves “atheist” simply see a couple of theories….one which seems to be backed up by countless tests, and the other which is widely believed. The more likely answer is that religion gave people a way to make sense of the world before they had ways to explain it.

I think that definition of my worldview is not satisfied by the term “agnostic” rather I think of agnosticism as doubt and atheism as certainty. And until we can actually answer those questions, rather than have theories, no matter how sound the theories may seem, it seems like no one can definitively say that there wasn’t some sort of intelligent being that brought this all about.

And I think that though theists may misunderstand that viewpoint, which is how a great number of self acclaimed “atheists” think, the connation is that an atheist would not be someone who would be electable as someone who leads and sets the rules for the rest of us. A true “atheist” would probably seek to remove God from our institutions and our very culture. A true “atheist” President might make it harder for theists to hold and express their views. I think it boils down to fear, just like most things. God is such an important part of so many peoples’ lives that even if someone expressed all the right attitudes and values, it’s very hard for some to see how a person could not believe…what would have to be wrong with a person to deny HIS majesty, after all. And for some, I think it goes further, there are those who believe that only Satan himself would seek to deny God, and therefore it is a demon working through any person who does not accept what to them is quite obvious. Again, just like everything else we humans do, it’s often about fear that somehow this change from what we are used to will be tantamount to taking away something from the rest.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

And whoever else commented on my answer…

no my parents didn’t raise me to only trust Christians and no the church does not preach that whatsoever. At least not any church I’ve been in. The only reasoning for leaning more towards easily trusting a Christian “stranger” than an atheist “stranger” just based on faith alone is just my personal conclusion that all humans are tempted to be self-serving. Christians included. I think that being a Christian gives someone an extra reason besides their own conscious to make the right choice, because as a Christian you are supposed to not only make the right choices because you have strong morals, but also because it serves God. I know atheists who are great people, and Christians who have made me very mad. It doesn’t have anything to do with who is a better person in my opinion, it has to do with the fact that if you’re a Christian, you believe that there is someone else watching you and your actions, and if you make a decision out of selfishness we believe God knows it.

Jack_Haas's avatar

I believe most Christian don’t trust atheists because atheism is seen as anti- something, not pro-something. People don’t seem to become atheists because something in the atheist faith appealed to them. It’s like they hate Christians, want to stand out, rebel against their environment (or what they imagine their environment to be, so they join some counter-culture movement, for no other reason that it’s anti-Christian.

The main topics atheists seem to be interested in are related to how bigoted, close-minded, intolerant Christians are and how atheists are so much smarter. It’s like most atheists, at least the activists, can’t have a conversation without condescending, insulting, caricaturing Christians.

People don’t take you seriously when you’re perceived to be against something and for nothing in particular.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jack_Haas So if the choice for president was a Moslem or an atheist, the Christian votes for the Moslem? Or, for the person who aligns best with what that Christian wants for the country? Christians are so lucky they are in the majority, but what if you are the minority?

Jack_Haas's avatar

I don’t know if Christians would vote for the muslim, there are other factors in play. Like in the Louisiana election that opposed a neo-nazi to a convicted felon, you know the one that gave the slogan “vote for the crook, it’s important!”. Some would stay home on election day, others would decide on the issues and disregard the candidates’ religions.

SuperMouse's avatar

@BBSDTfamily, do you believe that Christians specifically strive to live up to a set of morals to serve God, or does this opinion apply to other theists? As I have stated I am a person of faith and I am not Christian. Would you vote for a Jewish person? A Baha’i? A Muslim? These are people of faith, just not of your faith.

It is my understanding that Evangelical Christians believe that simply by accepting Jesus Christ into their lives they are automatically forgiven and guaranteed passage into heaven. I’ve always wondered how that can be a deterrent to sinful behavior, to me it feels more like a “Get out of Jail Free” card.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

Because ” grace are ye saved through faith, not of works..”. Just having a comparable moral code isn’t enough.

SuperMouse's avatar

@NaturalMineralWater, are you saying that only Christians can get into heaven and that in order for you to vote for any politician he/she has to have that ticket to heaven?

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I find the idea that only one particular secular group being able to reap the rewards of an afterlife to be insulting at the very least.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@SuperMouse What do politicians have to do with this? I believe “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

@The_Compassionate_Heretic Which secular group is that?

cyn's avatar

I can trust anyone/anything as long as they show RESPECT!

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Les I agree wholeheartedly.

@JLeslie I consider myself to be a theist but the majority of my friends don’t (or don’t admit to, I don’t know because we rarely discuss it) believe in God. That doesn’t make me trust them any less and in some ways I trust them MORE than other Theists. I would rather an honest, decent atheist than a self righteous, holier than thou theist (and I know that not all theists are like this obviously). It all depends on the individual person as to whether I feel I can trust them and not what higher power (if any) they believe in.

SuperMouse's avatar

@NaturalMineralWater, that’s what I’m wondering. What do politicians have to do with this? Or what does this have to do with politicians? I’m wondering if, in order to get your vote, politicians have to believe “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoseoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse Politicians are part of the description below the main question.

SuperMouse's avatar

@JLeslie, I understand that, I was just wondering @NaturalMineralWater‘s perspective on politicians who are theists, but not necessarily Christian.

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse I guess I misunderstood. Thank you.

SuperMouse's avatar

@JLeslie as I typed I hoping I didn’t sound snotty! Thanks for the comment! I might start another thread asking that question.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@SuperMouse My take on politicians has very little to do with their religion. If they are going to enforce laws and regulations that I would choose to uphold were I in their position… in other words.. if they agree with the same stuff as me legally.. than I support them. There are a wide variety of theists and atheists alike who possess a similar moral code as we’ve already discussed… it is that moral code for which I’m voting.. regardless of its origin.

SuperMouse's avatar

@NaturalMineralWater, lurve for a great explanation.

mattbrowne's avatar

It’s important to me that you make your own choice regardless of your conclusions.

lillycoyote's avatar

I’m a deist and it doesn’t matter to me what you believe.

Ron_C's avatar

I have yet see an answer to this question. It is likely that evangelical Christians stay away from sites like Fluther because they don’t like the idea that people would disagree with them in a reasonable, scholarly fashion.

I will follow this thread for awhile because it is an interesting question but doubt that any evangelical will respond. I would like to know the answer too.

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