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Is there a good apart from God, and, if so, is God good?

Most people -whether they openly acknowledge it or not- have an understanding of goodness that is separate and distinct from God. Their personal morality derives not merely from authority, but from basic principles of fairness, truth, and valuing others. These things, they might argue, come from God, but if God were to be unfair or untrue or cruel, that would not change morality - it would simply be a test, or God using evil to bring about a greater good.

Most people are not merely bullied by a giant sky wizard who tells them what to do. Most people have an innate understanding of right and wrong, and (conveniently) God usually lines up with that.

But, of course, that's not what the Bible says.

The most famous story about Abraham - the common spiritual ancestor of Judaism, Christianity and Islam - features ol' Abe being commanded to kill his own son.

Now, that is unambiguously evil. Granted, at this point in the Torah, the Ten Commandments still hadn't been written, but I think every hominid on this planet agrees that murdering your own innocent child is a bad thing to do. God wasn't merely telling Abraham to do something difficult. He wasn't merely telling Abraham to do something inconvenient. He wasn't telling him to give up something he liked. God was commanding Abraham to perform an evil deed.

Granted, an angel stayed Abraham's hand, but that's immaterial. God praised and rewarded Abraham for his willingness to prioritize His commands over basic ethics. The lesson of the story is that God may (conveniently) be good, but that God trumps good. If you want to be the father of nations, you'd better be prepared to perform acts of heinous evil (like stoning homosexuals or massacring Canaanites) in His name.

Many theists believe that atheists (and Satanists, like Ellen was in her teenage years) are abandoning God and therefore abandoning good. In my experience, though, most atheists and Satanists aren't abandoning God and good. They're abandoning God because they're choosing good over God. They throw down the knife and say - to quote Huck Finn - "All right, then, I'll go to hell."

You see that a great deal in modern protests around LGBT issues. Despite the flamboyance and flaunting of a typical Pride parade, when it comes time to rally for gay marriage or trans bathroom use, the argument is not "you should let us do this wicked thing", but rather "fairness and equality are inherently right, and if your religion is opposed to that, then it is your religion that is evil".

So what are the a priori axioms of ethics, if not the word of God? Supposedly there are six of them. Personally, I identify with Care, with altruism and self-sacrifice. I believe Spock was acting righteously when he said "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one", regardless of what Vulcan god was waiting for him in the afterlife.

Of course, my other guiding axiom is from Anton Chekhov, who famously said that if a Halligan bar is introduced in the 22nd strip of a webcomic, it must be used by the 857th strip.

(Wednesday night, INT: JH's bedroom. JH is pensive and regarding his Halligan bar)

JH: I know we don't talk much.
JH: And... I'm sorry about that, I guess? I mean, I know I claim to be a Deist to people, but sometimes I feel like a Christian and sometimes I feel like an agnostic. I honestly don't know whether I really believe in you or not.
JH: But I'm about to do something stupid and I'd appreciate some help.
JH: I guess I shouldn't pray for strength or wisdom or protection or anything like that. Seems selfish and wasteful. I've already got plenty of that stuff and I'm intentionally placing myself in danger regardless.
JH: So um... make sure everything comes out for the best, please. Let me be helping, not hurting, in the long run. I want what I'm doing tonight to result in people being better off. Presumably, we both have the same end goal, so... let's work together on that, okay?
JH: Unless you really do mostly care about ritual purity and not being gay and... and tabernacles and stuff, instead of the general populace's wellbeing, in which case... uh... continue ignoring me, I guess.
JH: Amen.