Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

Patrick H


The Problem Of Right Conduct, A Text-Book Of Christian Ethics, by Peter Green is one of the best Christian expositions of ethics I have ever come across. That is not to say there are no serious flaws in the book. What I like about it is how it states the Christian side so well which is very important so that critics can pick out the blunders and refute the Christian faith through doing that. We cannot refute any system of belief unless we have an accurate knowledge of what it teaches.

Green thinks that because a watch cannot correct itself for it is not aware of itself and a man can for he is aware of himself that humans have free will (page 35, 36). That proves nothing. The man might be programmed to change. Consciousness could be something that is programmed by the data that enters it so that change happens. A computer rejects programs that can harm it when it has the right anti-viral software so why should a conscious being need any free will when it does not need it? Green believes that we have free will because we admire goodness in a person different from how we admire a good machine or a beautiful object (page 51). But that is just a feeling. It is the way we are. To base belief in free will on such a terrible foundation means that the morality built on that will be a shambles and a disgrace for you need to be sure we have got free will before you can accuse us of deliberate wickedness.


Green is right that change is the only hope you have if you want evidence for free will for free will is about change.  The evidence for free will is as important as free will.  There is no good in a free agent being free if she or he cannot be sure.  In a sense then the evidence is more important than actually having free will!

We are so weak that often when we fail we are doing our best. Could we be meant to be weak and should we be glad that we are? To be human is to be weak for you cannot fly. So why should morality be any different? What use is believing in free will when somebody might be so weak that it was to blame and not them for shoplifting or whatever? Even the person doing these things will not be able to be sure if they had free will when they did them.

The book spells out that the study of ethics requires three jobs for it has three parts (page 12) which can be simplified as follows:
1. Try to answer the question of what you mean by right and wrong.
2. When the answer is got try to build a set of rules and attitudes that are consistent with that answer and with each other.
3. The science of casuistry is for working out what to do when the rules conflict with each other and to see which rule is overruled by another rule and what the best thing to do is so it is what has to be done when steps 1 and 2 have been satisfactorily completed. And example of one thing that casuistry will have to think about is that if you have to lie to save a life should you still obey the rule that lying is always wrong?

This is all absolutely correct and Humanists accept it without reserve.

In trying to answer question 1 Green considers several attempts to state what is meant by right and wrong.

Green rejects the Theocratic Basis for morality which argues that right is right and wrong is wrong just because God says so. It means that when you call God just and good it has no meaning for God has just made up justice and good. It means that there is no reason to obey God if he is not right and is just making it up. Because of these implications Green says the Theocratic Basis is impossible (page 63-64). This leads him to hold that the law of the land should not match God’s law in every respect – that it is right for example not to make adultery illegal. But he pretends not to see that the Theocratic Basis is what he has to confess as true if he believes in God which means the state has to be the tool of divine law and fit it in all respects.

The fact of the matter is that to be a Christian like Green or even a believer in God you have to accept the theory as silly as it is. One could go through life loving nobody but doing amazing good works. Yet they all say this is wrong even if it makes you do good better because loving others is a duty. Yet the only excuse for saying it is wrong is that there is a God who sees into the most secret recesses of your heart and is displeased.

Also a dying person is forbidden to enjoy doing something awful to a hated enemy. Logically he might as well for he deserves to die having vengeful fun but God religion says he should not do it meaning that God’s morality is not human morality and that God invents it.

If you believe in God then you believe God has the right to take all you have from you in death which means that if he is good then he means for us to devote ourselves to him and leave nothing for anybody else and just help others as a means of serving him alone. So morality has to be determined on his terms and not ours for even the suffering baby is cruelly not to be helped for its own sake but for his. He could make it a virtue to persecute the innocent.

Christians believe that God has the right to command us what to do. That is to say, we are to do what he asks primarily because he commands it. So he is putting obedience to his authority before you doing good which means that he is saying that it is good to put him before good which can only mean he can invent good and evil and have the right to do so which would mean that morality cannot exist unless we have a God to invent it. The Ten Commandments then were made to be obeyed meaning they imply that it is disobedient to God to hold that God does not invent morality. The Ten Commandments should therefore be banned because they are out to destroy right and wrong and replace it with enslavement to a deity. God does not care about your freedom. He loathes it. Morality could not give God the authority to command because it is its own authority and allegiance is due to it so God has stolen the authority and thereby has declared that he will decide what is right and wrong even if the facts contradict him. Those who see God just as a trap with which to trick people into obeying the commands of men in dog collars will hold that it is they who are the thieves. The commandments were given by God in his role as king and you obey kings because of who they are for you are not allowed to disobey them if you think they are wrong. Jesus also appropriated the king title for that is what his title Christ means.

God commanded that we must not steal or commit adultery. He declared this by his strong and inflexible “Thou shalt not…”. His intention was that the people are to be forced and blackmailed by the law not to do these things. When he declared this by authority and didn’t say, “It is wrong to commit adultery” but said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, he was advocating force. If you leave people free and respect their will you will tell them what is wrong but you will not order them like it is their job to do what you want and because you are the superior.
Ideally, the Law prevents crime.  When that is the ideal, then why does God put so much value on free will? The Law is really given out of uncharitable motives for he gives free will in order that it might be abused for the ideal is not what is reflected in reality. We live in a world in which any law frequently fails in its objective to regulate behaviour. If blackmail is right then we have a God who can make a virtue of evil things like unjust hatred.

Green recognises that if the Church teaches that God makes morality up out of thin air that people will be unlikely to take God seriously (page 64). They prefer to do good because it is good and not because some being claims that it is good. But the God concept definitely argues that God invents morality therefore it is out to make sure people don’t take doing good and being good seriously. Believers are to preach God despite being guaranteed to turn most people off morality for all agree that human beings do not like a moral God and usually invent a softie God with no guts for themselves. They will invent weak morals and blame their invention on God.

Green rejects the Hedonistic Basis for morality which argues that what is right is what increases happiness and pleasure and what is wrong is what fails to do this. He states that the advantage of this theory is that it is so simple (page 65). Conveniently, the fact that the following argument seems plausible is not dealt with: “A system of ethics is no good just as a theory and has to be easily and speedily understood to be implemented. Better even a faulty system that all the people readily or can readily adopt as one that is more convolute and which they cannot and which makes them feel condemned a lot of the time. Ethics improve character no matter how bad they are for they make the person think they are doing right with the result that they are less likely to be malicious and will be more kindly and generous. So Hedonistic ethics may be bad on paper but good in practice and still be the only way forward.”

He rejects the view that we don’t always seek pleasure for it is undeniable and also that when we take it on ourselves to undergo what is unpleasant the reason we do it is because we see it as a stepping stone to better pleasures and less pain (page 66). But the problems he sees is firstly the problem of what pleasure means. He states that there are many good things we want which are not about giving us bodily pleasure. And when we all have different desires to say that ethics is about getting what we desire is to say we can make them up as we go along. He states that when we desire anything the pleasure we get from acquiring it is a bonus, a side-effect of getting what we want (page 67). He will not get any pleasure if he forgets about the thing he desires and focuses on the pleasure he hopes that he will get out of it. Green surmises that the strongest argument against seeing right and wrong solely in terms of pleasure and pain is that none of us praise a man who helps others just to advantage himself. So doing good should not be intended just to make the person who is doing the good happy. This really means that you need not take pride and joy in the good you do and do it for this pride and joy experience. It opposes self-esteem and without self-esteem any respect you have for others is artificial. We cannot help taking some pleasure in what we do and the man who does good to please himself though it pleases others is doing all he can and should be praised. Christians slag off his goodness.

The Utilitarian Basis is that we should advance the most happiness of the most people and be willing to sacrifice our happiness if that would make others happier than we would be if we did not sacrifice.

Green says the trouble is that it is unclear on what it means by good. Some say that good consists principally of intellectual pleasures for they fear the consequences of people being told to do whatever they feel like. Bentham rejected this view for pleasure whether intellectual or carnal is just pleasure. So to say as Christians do that morality may give pleasure but is not about pleasure is totally frightening and makes us find morality repulsive. It is no wonder the majority of Christians have prejudices against their own Church and even more prejudices against members of other Churches.

Green then whines about the word good to a Utilitarian cannot be defined so there is no way can work out the greatest good for us all (page 71). To say a thing like that is to admit that goodness has nothing to do with formulating and preparing a moral system which is the same thing as saying that morality is invented and hate could be a moral obligation.

Green feels that Utilitarianism fails to tell us why we should believe in it as a system of morality. He says that it has to convince us that it is best for us to believe in it. And to convince us to practice it even when we will have to sacrifice our happiness perhaps permanently for the betterment of others. He says it cannot do these. This is nonsense. Greatest happiness of greatest number is sheer commonsense. This remains true if a system cannot be made out of it. It is people who block the creation of a system not the rule.
Green, being a Christian, seeks to deny that I should only accept a morality that is ultimately concerned only with what is best for me. Utilitarianism seeks what is best for me but considers what other people need and if I have to die for them then die I must. This is the best for me under the circumstances. By criticising Utilitarianism for doing that he is saying his own morality has no basis! He says it is not always true that what is best for me will be best for everybody else too (page 70). I dispute this for the following reason. If we accept whatever blows life throws at us and recognise that to be happy we have to be willing to lose things that we like when we have to part with them that we will be content to do without it if it necessary for the common good. His statement that Utilitarianism gives no authority for saying that the greatest happiness of the greatest number is what matters is foolish for it is obvious that Utilitarianism sees happiness as better than misery which is right so to look for proof is like looking for proof that 1 and 1 is 2. It needs no proof for it proves itself. Green accuses Utilitarianism of sometimes assuming that since A, B and C each desire their individual good that it does not mean that they are seeking the highest good for them all which is the fallacy of composition (page 71). This is not a fallacy for to make the greatest good of the greatest number possible each person has to co-operate and enjoy having this good as an aim. They have to make the good of the whole their individual good and gain pleasure and enjoyment from it.

The Christian has to accuse Utilitarianism of having no basis because to admit that it is viable and tolerable and acceptable is to admit that the Christian way is not the only way to a moral life which contradicts Jesus’ claim to be the only source of right teaching and divine grace, or the power that makes you holy and pleasing to God. The Christian then is forced to slander and do conjuring tricks with facts to smear it. (So they certainly do not believe in loving Utilitarians!) The Utilitarian would agree with adultery under some circumstances while the commandment of God forbids it totally. If most people are happiest without believing in God then Utilitarianism commands that God be dispensed with. Utilitarianism implies that Jesus did wrong by choosing such a horrible death to save the world for had he chosen a gentler one we would not have to disturb ourselves by remembering it and be guilty that he had to do that for us. Christianity says that believing in and giving the heart to God is the greatest good and not happiness and that serving God does not promise happiness in this world and you could die and find that there is no happiness in the next world either say if Christianity was mistaken about the existence of Heaven. Christians say that even when you are on your deathbed you should renounce yourself and do something painful for others or another. It denies that it is in any way an evil to deprive yourself in this way. This means that no person can really be important. What is important is the self-denial.

The next objection Green has is that when a person is very very lucky, the fact is that a lot of bad things had to happen before they brought him the luck and when we cannot sum up if he really is better off we cannot do it for society either for when we cannot do it for one person how can we do it for millions? (page 65). He thinks what is meant by the greatest good is too vague to be of any help. But that cannot be a refutation of Utilitarianism. The greatest good of the greatest number could be true even if we have problems deciding what the good is. Nobody can deny that the greatest good of the greatest number philosophy is right if we can find out what good is. The doctrine needs no basis for it speaks for itself. To deny this is to deny that there is such a thing as morality or right and wrong.

The Utilitarian John Stewart Mill is quoted as saying that he would rather go to Hell forever than go to a God in Heaven who condemns unbaptised babies to Hell for all time and eternity (page 64). But God is going to do what God is going to do so him going to Hell is going to mean one less person being happy for nothing which would be inconsistent with Utilitarianism. God sends seven year olds to Hell for at that age they can allegedly choose it. It’s a terrible slander in itself to say that anybody would choose such a fate or a sin that brings with it such a fate which is just as wrong. You would need to be able to prove the faith one hundred per cent to be able to make such a serious accusation – another proof that Christianity when understood right is anti-morality. To go to the Heaven of such a God would be to betray the people he abuses which highlights how much hatred festers under the Hell doctrine. It is actually worse to be willing to do that now when we are on earth because we know very little of God for sure.

The Stoic Basis says that good is to be done for its own sake and not for its results (page 72). This view argues that intuition not logic defends this morality. We sense by intuition that it is right. But some of us have an intuition that it is wrong so what then?

Green agrees partly with the view that we see and perceive what is good about justice and mercy and kindness so that they need nobody to commend them (page 112). But this view assumes that you are sane. A psychopath will not see things as you do and will be very sane acting and intelligent and will believe himself to be sane. You have to believe in yourself before you can believe in the virtues. This shows that all morality or belief in right and wrong goes back to one thing: self-love. Thus the perverse command of Jesus and Moses: “Love thy neighbour as thyself” stands eternally in its hatred of goodness and replaces it with a double altered by theological plastic surgery. What you do is you love your neighbour by yourself. You good for your neighbour for the sake of your own dignity. In this sense, and not in the antisocial sense, many Humanists are individualists. The Christian faith forbids belief in the existence of the psychopath because it holds that nobody has an excuse for not following Jesus. But the psychopath would have for he has a disorder.

Green finds that the failure of all attempts to establish a basis for morality show that there is only one thing that can succeed. This is that right is not working with people as they are but as they should be or as their nature would require (page 86). In other words people should be treated in the way that suits them as persons. This is not the same as the view that persons are absolutely valuable and it brings God in which means which advocates discrimination against atheists and hatred of their beliefs. As a Christian he really means that a person should be treated in a way that befits them as instruments of God. This implies that unless you have a strong faith in God you cannot be a moral person.

So you can work out morality according to Green by approaching a person as the person ought to be not as he or she is. So lying is wrong because our mouths were given to us to tell the truth. Murder is wrong for life is meant to be lived. To approach the murderer as a murderer would mean it was right to kill him but to approach him as his nature should be would mean that you do not kill him for it is immoral.

There is some truth in this but when you believe in God you end up foolishly saying for example that murder is wrong but if God commanded us to kill one another it would be right to do it. So the God belief is a danger to our faith that murder is bad. Maybe it is a small danger most of the time - but it is still a danger for doing that.

I argue that stealing for fun is not stealing for a reason but for an excuse or a made up reason. Therefore it is a more irrational reason than stealing to buy a coat from the sale of the stolen item would be. This is to be condemned. Stealing for fun is to be condemned more. Stealing to save a life is not to be condemned at all. The Humanist works out right and wrong by approaching man not as a being that should believe in God and obey God’s commands but as a being that behaves intelligently or can and should.

Green makes the accusation that those who have no religious convictions are guilty of the sin of not taking God seriously and of being careless (page 132). This presupposes that Christianity is the only right faith. This makes many retort that Christianity is founded on an arrogant and know-it-all attitude which is dishonestly disguised as humility – a tactic which enabled Christianity to steal the sheep that comprise it and which always enabled it. A Muslim or an Atheist could say that Christians are guilty of these sins of carelessness for not agreeing with him! Green rejects the view that religion and religious beliefs are a private matter between each individual and his conscience (page 131). So it is your duty then to believe in God like most other people and you are betraying them if you abjure and fall away from that belief. He says that making your own religious decisions is unnatural for man is a social creature. But man can be social and spiritual and diligent in the quest for truth and have communion with others without organised religion. An informal religious gathering that is not affiliated with any dogmatic cult would suffice. Green’s attitude is shown to be a Christian one by the fact that the gospels portray Jesus as claiming the right even to break the law of the land and the Law of Caesar by promulgating the view, in teaching and in miracle, that Jesus was the real Son of God and not Caesar. In actuality, Jesus would have been thrown in jail the second he started doing that so the gospels lie but the point is that he was a master at causing trouble in subtle ways with his harmful theology which Green unhesitantly embraces.

Humanists do not accuse everybody who disagrees with them of laziness for it is up to each person to see the truth and our deficiencies are often to blame when they don’t. Green thinks you are bad for not investigating Christianity but why Christianity? If you should investigate anything you should investigate the case against it which will be presented invariably by rationalists including Humanists. Religion will be ashamed to say it but it needs people like us if it is interested in truth and honesty.

In some parts of the book, instead of the hypocrisy of teaching that the sinner is to be loved and the sin hated the book admits that it is not what the evil person does that we hate but the evil character of that person that we find detestable (page 33). So you hate not the sin but the hateful person for doing the sin. This attitude implies that when a good person does wrong it is more vile than an evil person doing it for the good person has less of an excuse. If you believe in free will you have to hate the evil person if you are to hate evil. That is why Humanism mostly denies free will and holds that people who do evil are just victims of mental aberrations. It is necessary to be able to value all people.

Green says that when we call an act evil we are really strictly speaking saying the man that does it is evil. He says the act is not wrong in itself it is just an act so it is the agent who is evil and sinful (page 138). The action is neither good or bad in itself – the consequences have nothing to do with this assessment. To hit someone to waken them up to get them out of a burning building is good and to hit them for no reason is bad. Green says that an unselfish sacrifice can do more harm at times than the vilest treachery and says this can be solved if we do not judge the act but the motive it was inspired with, was it a caring or uncaring motive.
Green even goes as far as to say we cannot have any idea if what we do will be of benefit so it is only motive that counts (page 138). This is wrong and extremely dangerous. You cannot have a sincere good motive to act if it makes no difference what we do – it’s only done to ensure we do something for we cannot win.

Green says that ethics is about character and not about actions for a bad character produces bad actions just like a good character produces good actions. He sees that people who attempt to do good without cleaning their souls of sin first are spiritually insensible and arrogant (page 136). He says they cannot do good works. The results of their work may be good but the motives are bad so they are not good works in the sight of God. Then he considers the common objection to Christianity which is that Christians put purifying their hearts before working to make the world a better place.

He states that the answer is that this life is schooling for the next life so that we have a right to put holiness before getting the best results (page 137). That is his answer to those who say that “when A secretly hates his brother and does an amazing pile of good to prove he is better than his brother, A is better being like this than being a holy person who does less good.” That is why he says that the doctrine of immortality indicates that it is right to accuse not acts of immorality but the agents.

Green says that it is not a sin to doubt even what is true if the evidence you have got in insufficient but to doubt your own reason is a sin against the Holy Ghost (page 80). The statement that to have no trust in your own thinking is a fatal sin against the Holy Ghost (page 80) is offensive to Humanists. A person will have reasons for having doubts about his reason or the way he reasons. To make an accusation of sin against them is really to say that people can be condemned for the beliefs they have. To doubt is a reflection of your belief that you should doubt. To accuse like this in the name of God is therefore to say that evil is good when God commands it though it is still harmful and evil. To say that to disbelieve in your own reason is a sin against the Holy Ghost is to deny that it is just a sin against your own reason. There is no need to bring in the Holy Ghost. He would certainly expect to be brought in so he is just interfering. To be like him we have to stick our noses where they don’t belong. Time and time again Green keeps talking as if he believes in the Theocratic Basis of morality. All believers in God do but it is not something they like to wear on their sleeves.

Green tells us that loving God gives more permanent and potent virtues than loving others would (page 107). That would be an argument against Atheism and believers in God would necessarily have to agree with it. But that means you only have the Christians’ word for it that they are better than anybody else. Why should we believe it in a world of liars and hypocrites? Green said also that it was impossible to measure how much good x or y causes which makes him contradict his boast about the benefits of belief in God (page 71). The truth is it is other believers in God and their attitudes that affect the Christians’ behaviour and virtues. Nobody fears letting God down as much as they do letting their neighbours and Church down. Loving others then would be the most potent virtue producer. This is the atheist answer to Green’s slur against us.

Green, however, wisely sees later (page 112) that Kant said that morality depends on the principle that man is to be taken as an end in himself. In other words, you do all you do for ultimately it is only you and other people that counts. He sees the view that we are only here for God’s ends as demeaning to us and says this view leaves it impossible to convince us as to why we should just go along with God’s plans and treat ourselves as his means and not as ends in ourselves. It is destructive to morality and right and wrong. But to this problem Green proposes an unacceptable solution. He thinks that things like justice and charity are eternally right therefore they are an everlasting moral law. He argues that they can only be that if we live forever (page 112). He supposes that there can be no morality but just expediency if death is the end (page 135). Then he goes back to the villainous view that we exist for God (page 113). He states that cannot know what right and wrong mean unless we presuppose everlasting life (page 111). He denies that he means that the unbeliever in an afterlife

You need to believe in an afterlife which is not like Heaven where there is no need for virtue or in a terrible Hell where virtue is non-existent if Green is right that you need to believe in everlasting life in order to know what right and wrong are. This automatically states that Jesus did not save us from sin by his death on the cross by winning a Heaven for us where there is no sin. It denies the existence of Heaven and it condemns the Christian faith for saying there is a Heaven.

Green believes that sometimes there is no right thing to do like when a woman cheats on her husband and repents she has to hide it from him though he has a right to know and does it for his sake and hers (page 159). Her hiding it is bad and so is her not hiding it so she cannot win.

Green takes the traditional Christian position that animals have no rights (page 272). He argues against cruelty to them on the grounds that God cares for them and cannot be indifferent to their suffering. He says that our own character is degraded by cruelty and it makes us worse. He says that we harm our neighbour by hurting animals because it corrupts him if he does not care and shocks him if he does. He takes the position then that the duty to care for animals has nothing to do with them having any rights. I’m sure Green wouldn’t believe that babies at a very early stage of development in the womb which are lower in consciousness than grown animals have no rights! He would oppose abortion.

I totally object to his claim that for a married couple to use birth control to avoid the pains and troubles of rearing children is immoral for it is selfish (page 233). He however rejects the view that birth control is always wrong. He thinks that to forbid birth control always may be as silly as saying that a girl eating a chocolate between meals is unnatural sin for she does not need it for her nourishment. So sex just for fun cannot be wrong when undertaken within marriage. But if he is right about it being wrong to selfishly want to avoid children that means that a couple who can have more children but don’t want them are sinning. Also he is restricting the right to marry to the well off for only people who are willing to have and can have as many children as possible should get married. If it is selfish to have sex and to intend no children, what is it to not want a partner in marriage at all?

Green rejects the view that people can morally get divorced just because a partner ends up in jail for life (page 230). He rejects the Roman Catholic doctrine that a marriage is invalid if it takes place in a Register Office (page 212) for all that is necessary is for a man to take his wife to live with him for the rest of his and her life. The Roman Church just wants to break up couples married that way for the hell of it. It forces gay couples to break up and it is trying to legitimise adultery when the marriage was solemnised in a Register Office. The truth about marriage is that it is about having sex with nobody else until death they do part and is not about parting when love ceases. The living together is not even important and it is enough to have sex once. Marriage is not about love but about sex and power which is why thoughtful Humanists do not believe in it. When it is about sex that might not be very good then logically divorce is wrong for divorcing is done for the sake of happiness and marriage treats happiness with indifference. And why should a wife not divorce her jailbird husband if she is allowed to divorce him for a once-off act of adultery that should not have bothered her excessively?  

He says that anger should never be allowed to become an emotion but allows intellectual anger which is seeing that something should not be (page 192). Emotional anger would then be an act of hate for it is totally unnecessary and dangerous.

He lists the reasons for punishment which are retribution, to prevent injury to the innocent, to deter others from doing wrong, and to reform the criminal (pages 256-259). It seems to me that if Christians really love their enemies the main reason for punishment will be to help the criminal to reform. Funny how the Church teaches that the law of the land has to be upheld by punishing to be a law and still it allows you to not turn yourself in if you commit a murder. Well it is funny if you consider hypocrisy funny!

He sees the deterrence element in punishment as something the criminal can do for society to undo some of the damage (page 259). Is this interest in society compatible with Humanist individualism? Yes for the criminal needs to be part of society to practice this individualism. He is condemned by the law he himself wants and upholds. Anyway, it is not Christian to expect anything from other people. The prophet, St Paul stated that it is better to give than to receive.

We conclude that Christianity does not know much about right and wrong.

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Roman Catholic Ethics: Three Approaches by Brian Berry