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December 2, 2008
Column #1,423
Advance for Dec. 6, 2008
"Be Good for Goodness Sake"
by Mike McManus

Along the New Jersey Turnpike is a 48 foot billboard, picturing a blue sky and fluffy clouds, with these words "Don't believe in God? You are not alone."

Another startling ad on a Washington D.C. bus pictured a black woman in a Santa suit, hands outstretched, palms up, asking a question, "Why believe in a god?"  Below it in a red headline was the answer, "Just be good for goodness sake."

These messages are from the American Humanist Association as we enter Advent, or "the Christmas season." Os Guinness, one of the most penetrating critics of modern culture, acknowledged, "Yes, you can be good without God.  There are many examples of that.

"The real question is can you create a good society without God? The framers of the Constitution believed in religious liberty, for atheists too, but were leery of a whole society that was atheistic. Without God, you would not have virtue to restrain evil. Freedom requires order, and there is only one type of order compatible with freedom, self-restraint."

In his Farewell Address as President, George Washington said, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports...And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion."

Guinness argues that "There has never been a major society that has been good and sustained its goodness without God.  Atheistic societies have been profoundly evil and totalitarian." In the 20th Century, we witnessed the rise of two nations built on atheism the Soviet Union and China.  These murderous regimes killed more than 100 million people."

David Aikman was TIME's correspondent in China during the Tiananmen Square revolt when 100,000 Chinese staged a march to demand political reforms in 1989. Troops entered the huge Tiananmen Square with tanks killing 5,000, injuring another 10,000.

Author of "The Delusion of Disbelief," a new book debunking the recent glamorization of atheism by such people as Richard Dawkins, Aikman acknowledges, "You don't have to be Christian to be good, but most people if they try to get themselves better than they are, find the bootstrap method singularly ineffective.  There is no moral power in your own will. Christians believe, and common sense observation of history, show that without a commitment to God through Christ, people lack the moral strength that comes solely through divine power."

"Atheism suggests that it is possible for people by their own bootstraps to make themselves morally better.  That proposition has failed throughout human history. Soviets did away with any metaphysical based morality, and it was reduced to telling students they should not cheat because Uncle Lenin would not like it.

"If there is one lesson of several decades of atheism is that it produces the most incredible demoralization of human behavior," said Aikman, who speaks Russian and Chinese. "The Soviets invited Campus Crusade for Christ people in to teach their teachers how to teach morality in the public schools.  In China there are thousands of demonstrations every year because ordinary Chinese are confronting corruption and dishonesty at the hands of their leaders."

By contrast, he noted the impact of a Christian revival in England: "In 1750 England was one of the most corrupt and decadent countries, riddled by alcoholism.  Most big cities were too dangerous to travel through without personal body guards.  You could buy your way into Parliament. The public flocked to public hangings.

"One hundred years later, England was the most morally upright nation in Europe.. Street crime was very low. The transformation of English society into the Victorian era, was brought about by the evangelical Wesley revival through the first half of the 19th Century "

On the other hand, few people go to church in England today.  America has a high church attendance rate but one of the world's highest incarceration rates.

Too many Christians live their lives as though God did not exist.

In Christmas shopping, parents are buying violent video games, unaware that even 20 minutes of playing them spark aggressive attitudes and actions. However, there is a mutual fund, The Timothy Plan, which invests only in companies with quantifiable moral and ethical standards - that undertook exhaustive research to identify games that parents should NOT buy.

At Timothy Plan's web site,, parents can download a complimentary report detailing "some of the most violent and offensive video games ever to be available in my lifetime," says its founder, Art Ally.

Christians can - and do - make a difference in the culture. However, they must live their faith so that it makes a difference in the lives of others.

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