The comments/responses from believers (churchgoers/adherents) were positive, uplifting and appreciative. But an almost equal number of contravening comments were from those with atheistic leanings and beliefs. Their prevailing argument of course is that "atheists and those who do not profess any religious affiliation ALSO perform good deeds and help others." (Now, who can argue with that? And if I were judging the debate, I would score a point for the atheists.) Their main premise always is that one does not have to believe in God to be good. Put simply, there is no God; the individual is autonomous, self-sufficient, independent and capable of generating his own morality and values. Several groups that subscribe comfortably to such philosophy include humanists, empiricists, secularists, existentialists and a few other "ists".
So how does someone who believes in God respond to these atheistic and agnostic claims, at least to advance his/her own theistic beliefs and perhaps one-upping the godless opposition in debate points? Pardon the debate references and context since it’s highly impossible to convince an atheist against his/her convictions, therefore, a believer should at least explain, in a logical and reasonable way, that good definitely originates with God. Hence, a debate backdrop seems fitting.
With that in mind, let me say that as Christians, in general, we are expected to use the Bible and Scriptures as support for a reasonable and logical explanation - with Christ at the center, of course.
So for me, my response starts with the premise of Christ being "The Light." First, from the Bible:
"I am the light of the world." ~ John 8:12
"In him was life; and the life was the light of men." ~John 1:4
"[Christ] was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
~John 1:9; D&C 93:2
The atheist might say, "Ok, I see the light (pun intended) but where is the "good"? To which I say, ogosa’i mai, (be patient) ...Alright, here’s a verse that has "good" and "light" in the same sentence:
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights...." - James 1:17
Still to my atheist friend, "Ua a, ua kau maua mai?" (How’s that, are you beginning to catch my drift?)
Well, to elaborate and expound on the light and good association, let me refer to my Church’s (LDS Church) teachings. One of its doctrines is called "The Light of Christ".
The phrase "light of Christ" does not appear in the Bible, although the principles that apply to it are frequently mentioned therein. Biblical phrases that are sometimes synonymous to the term "light of Christ" are "spirit of the Lord" and "light of life" (see, for example, John 1:4; 8:12). The "spirit of the Lord," however, sometimes is used with reference to the Holy Ghost and so must not be taken in every case as having reference to the light of Christ.
The light of Christ is just what the words imply: enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ.
The light of Christ should not be confused with the personage of the Holy Ghost, for the light of Christ is not a personage at all. Its influence is preliminary to and preparatory to one’s receiving the Holy Ghost.
Now from the Book of Mormon, which compliments the Bible, we find this specific treatise on the light of Christ and its role and influence in choosing and doing good.
12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God;
13 ... behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good ... is inspired of God.
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
16 For behold, the Spirit [or "light"] of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
2 Nephi 33:10
"And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, ... and they teach all men that they should do good."
Again, this light of Christ is given to everyone - whether an atheist, agnostic, humanist, secularist, etc. Simply, to all believers and unbelievers alike. The main manifestation of this light is one’s conscience.
Incidentally, right after I read the article mentioned at the top of the post, especially the atheistic comments, I came across an article titled "Studies make stunning claim about atheists."
And what stunning claim is that? It is that "religious people are less intelligent than non-believers [or atheists]." Yep, atheists are more intelligent than those of us who believe in God according to this particular study. (Richard Dawkins, are you behind this study? LOL!)
It was lacking in details except to cite a number of studies that date back several years. I wonder how they qualify and define "intelligent". But if there be a slightest iota of truth in that - that the atheists are more intelligent than believers and the God-fearing - then I’d like to score some points in that debate by saying that atheists may be more intelligent, but certainly not wiser.
And my favorite endorsement comes from none other than the Book of Mormon again:
"O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God."
(2 Nephi 9:28-29)
This reminds me of one of my favorite scriptures as a young boy "O le mata’u i le Atua o le amataga lea o le poto." (The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom) - Proverbs 9:10.
So the next time an atheist or agnostic argues that they, too, do good and help others of their own volition, and not under God’s influence, tell them sorry but there’s a divine attribute within them - whether they acknowledge it or not - that prompts and moves them to do good. After all, our heritage is with God, not with some monkey.
Oh, one more ... God is Good!