GOOD MORNING! An atheist was visiting Scotland. While boating on the famed Loch Ness he sees a giant slithering eel-like creature undulating through the water. With a whack of its tail, the creature launches the man and the boat high into the air. What does the atheist yell out? "God, save me!" A miracle! The man is suspended 200 feet in the air. The Loch Ness monster is immediately below him, jaws wide open, ready to swallow. A booming voice comes from Heaven, "Give me one good reason why I should save you. You haven't believed in Me a day in your life!" The atheist replies, "God, please - cut me some slack. Until five minutes ago I didn't believe in the Loch Ness monster either!"
Many people consider themselves atheists or agnostics. Does it make any difference what a person believes as long as he is a good person? And... how does a person know or decide what is the right thing?
Many years ago a rabbi sat in an intercity taxi going from Jerusalem to Beersheva (a city in central Israel). Sitting next to him was a brilliant Jewish man who prided himself on being an atheist and touted his superior morality. The rabbi asked him, "Would you slap the man next to you (on the other side!) across the cheek?" "Of course not," replied the atheist. "Would you slap him if I gave you $10?" "Of course not," responded the atheist, "What do you think I am?" "How about for $100,000?" the rabbi asked. "Of course I would! Just think of the good I could do in the world!" Responded the rabbi, "That's not morality! Morality is having a bottom line of right and wrong. It is wrong to hit the man and it cannot be rationalized."
The problem with Atheism (besides the fact that it has no holidays) is that its morality is flexible. To be good one needs an absolute definition of what is good. If one does not believe in a G-d given morality, then his sense of morality is adjustable and influenced by society. A societal "morality" can lead to the decision that the greater good for society is "ethnic-cleansing" ... genocide - gas chambers and ovens.
The Torah sets an absolute standard for right and wrong. We uphold the standard because we believe that the Almighty gave us the Torah and that we are obligated to uphold its standards.
A Jew (or as I define Jew as a spiritual person) who believes in G-d is additionally motivated by both love of God and fear of God. Everyone agrees that doing out of love is far superior to doing out of fear. However, we need both love and fear in life.
Love motivates us to do positive deeds while fear motivates us to refrain from negative actions. A parent will be motivated out of love to buy a birthday gift for his child; but it won't keep him from losing his temper and yelling at his child.
Fear will keep us from coming late to work or blowing up at our boss; it won't motivate us to do something extra to be nice for the boss. Every government recognizes that only by having severe consequences for not paying taxes, will people pay taxes. Fear of consequence is a strong motivator to do the right thing. Fearing God and fearing the consequences in this world and the Next World are important for acting morally.
There are many who scoff at the idea of an absolute morality. "There are no absolutes!" they maintain. Next time someone presents that opinion, ask, "Are you sure?" Likely they'll respond, "Yes!" Then ask, "Are you really sure?" Again, with even more vigor they'll reply, "YES!" And then ask... "Are you absolutely sure?"
We all want to be good. If asked, "Would you rather be good or rich?" a person will answer "good." If asked, "Would you rather be good or happy?" a person will answer "good." If we so much value being good and want to be good - doesn't it make sense to study what is good rather than just going according to our society or our gut feeling?
Where does one start to learn what is good? Start by learning the Torah - it has a 3,000 year track record for setting the standard of morality!
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