There is an idea floating around the world today that sells people on the idea that they are the absolute authority on all matters of judgment about good and evil. And sometimes I even hear people say that you can’t judge or assess anyone else’s behavior or choices because their individual discernment of good and evil trumps yours.
One of my oldest friends has concluded that he no longer believes in God. He is sometimes a little bit volatile about it, which suggests that something in his life connected with his concept of God has been very painful, hurtful to him. Sometimes he argues that only you have any “right” to decide what will be good or bad for yourself; no one needs some god telling you what you should do, or what you can’t do. And so he believes that each person has the moral responsibility to define good and evil for themselves. No one else should have any say in the matter. It’s a declaration of absolute independence.
I wonder why he would decide the entire concept of God was superstitious and damaging to human life and happiness. Perhaps it is the ugly side of human failure to live up to our standards that pushes him into the camp of rejection. Perhaps it is just the zealous nature of proponents of theories of accidental origins of life and species that convinces him that such intelligent people must be better informed than the rest of us. Many people have drawn the same conclusion.
I am convinced the universe was created by God, especially since the alternatives require so much random, chaotic coincidence to happen in such a specific order that winning the Powerball grand prize without buying a ticket would be less of a surprise. But one of the reasons I believe in God is rooted in the very concept of good and evil. Small children are often concerned with what’s fair. They know when they have been treated unfairly. They know when things are good and when they are not. Their perceptions are not infallible of course, but still people of all ages, all education levels, all experiences carry a view of some things being good, and some things being “not” good. And it is the existence of good that makes me believe God is real.
The universe is good; it is full of wonder and grandeur and beauty. The earth is good; it houses us and feeds us, it has magnificent beauty and incredible productivity. Plants grow, animals reproduce, people love…and these things are good. Life is good, so good that we hold onto it under the most terrible of circumstances.
Love is good, so good that people have given up their own life to save the life of another. Goodness is real, and we all know it. We all somehow have a capacity in us to recognize some things are good and to appreciate them, even to desire them.
I wonder what role goodness has in a universe that is nothing more than the byproduct of a cosmic industrial accident…but I do not wonder what role goodness plays in a universe created by a God who is good.
We may not be able to reconcile our views on God’s existence, my friend certainly and emphatically does not agree with me, but I hope and I try, for my friendship and my life to be good for him. I think God wants more goodness and less mess in this world; it would be easier to recognize him then.