Jason Boyett — a Christian who admits to having doubts about aspects of his faith — proposes a simple question on his site: (I’m paraphrasing)
Is it better to believe in God but live like you don’t or not believe in God but live like you do?
Or, phrased another way (in his words), “What’s more important: belief or actions?”
I winced at the question itself.
I don’t believe in God. And, dammit, I live like I don’t. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Religious people don’t have a monopoly on morality, but questions like this just reveal that bias.
I don’t believe in God and I’m a better person because of it. I don’t sit around, praying and asking others to pray for me, hoping for something miraculous to happen, because I know that’s useless. Instead, I get off my ass and get stuff done. And if things can’t get better, I accept that and try to move on. I know there’s no afterlife awaiting me, so I try to help others now, when it counts. I don’t cling to irrational beliefs because of tradition or faulty “evidence.” If I find out I’m wrong about something I’ve believed in for a long time, then I admit that.
I have no doubt Jason didn’t mean to suggest that atheists were bad people. But the question he asked implies that if you “live like you believe in God,” you’ll only do good things.
But every one of you can list countless horrible things people have done in the name of religion.
So here’s a revised question that I hope conveys the same intended meaning:
Is it better to believe in a God but act in immoral ways that go against what you preach? Or not believe in a God, but act as if someone were watching over you and judging you at all times?