Writer: Billy / Atheist Republic
Subject: I was taught to do good as a favor to God
Link: 20.05.2022 / email@example.com
I was taught to do good as a favor to God
Thanks to Billy for this email in response to our morality newsletter.
Being brought up religious meant that, either intentionally or unintentionally, I was taught that doing the right thing made god like you more. This meant that if you did good things, he would reward you.
I can remember riding down a country road on my bicycle when I was six or seven years old, and being terrorized by some crows that had made a nest in one of the electric poles that lined the road.
I was scared out of my mind and asked god to magically transport me to my home up the road so I wouldn’t have to worry about the birds that were dive-bombing me. When the magic transport didn’t happen, out of fear and anger, I can remember saying “God, if you don’t do this for me I’m going to go the devil.” Of course, the magic transportation still didn’t happen. I guess the devil wasn’t interested in getting me past those crows either. I think that sums up how my belief in god shaped my moral teaching. You give, you get – Quid Pro Quo.
It is an illustration of what Christopher Hitchens pointed out: As a believer, I was taught that the real reason to always do the right thing was to gain favor with a celestial dictator and avoid everlasting fire. Like blackmail.
Now, things are different. My wife and I are raising my daughter not to believe in god. We teach her that doing the right thing is its own reward. It is a teaching that has brought about some nice results. I’m sitting at my work desk on my lunch hour looking at a picture she left on my desk at home for me. It’s a pencil drawing of me and her with the words “best dad” on it.
She didn’t do that because she was taught to do so in Sunday school as a way of earning Jehovah’s favor. She did so just because she wanted to and because she thought I would like it. And therefore, it means the world to me.
I read this in a CNN column recently and feel I could have said it myself: will my daughter live forever in eternity? Will she rule over her own planet in the afterlife? No, she will not. But her voluntary act of kindness sure made her father proud and it suggests that in the future, she will do the right thing because it’s the right thing. And she’ll sleep well at night and will make her family proud.
And I’m willing to bet that if she were the one dodging those dive-bombing crows on that country road all those years ago, she wouldn’t have wasted time trying to make a deal with god to use some celestial transporter beam to whisk her away to safety. I imagine that if push came to shove, she would have pedaled the damned bike in an effort to get past the crows as soon as she could. That would make sense, after all.