On my Facebook page, an acquaintance posted an interesting comment. She wrote:
(T)here is spirituality in doing goodness. We must have faith, which comes through God, and we are to do good works through faith. Otherwise good works alone on our part mean nothing – but to God doing goodness in our works through faith means everything.
My sense is that she isn’t alone in these beliefs. I’m no expert, so I’d love to hear from those who know more than I do about traditional religion. At the very least, these few short sentences raise important questions.
- Can we only be good if we believe in God? If so, can only one kind of religious belief lead us to goodness, or can any religious belief do that?
- Can we only have faith through believing in God, or can faith be found through other means? If God is the only path to faith, then does only one church have the right kind of faith, or will any church/denomination/religion do?
- Are our good works meaningless if we don’t do them through faith or in the name of God? In other words, if I save the life of a drowning woman, but I’m an atheist, is the woman’s life not saved, or is my action somehow not “good?”
- Do good works mean more if they are done in God’s name? In other words, is there something special about doing good works in God’s name?
I truly want to understand, and I welcome input from anyone: believer, atheist, cleric, layperson or academic. What is God’s role in creating or sustaining goodness?