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What makes a person good?


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#1    me-wonders

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 11:57 PM

It appears many Christians think people must become Christians and must be saved by Jesus to be moral and good people.  I find this belief rather offensive, and think we should talk about what makes a person good.


#2    Bracket

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 12:02 AM

I'd say the simple answer is our own personal morals.

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#3    Damrod

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 12:09 AM

I would grant the Hippocratic oath is the very foundation of goodness between human beings...for all mere mortals to consider...whether you are a doctor or not..."Do no harm"...Sounds like a good way to start.

Knowingly harming another sentient being for your own prosperity is never "good" and no good can come out of it in it's finality...the short term might feel good...but eventually there is a piper...or fiddler...to be paid...I think some folks are blessed to either not experience in their lifetime...thus the saying about the "sins of the father"...or they are just impervious to common "guilt" like most people feel when they know they have hurt another person for their own personal gain...

But that is just my personal opinion....


#4    Habitat

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 12:56 AM

Damrod seems to be saying that wrong-doing backfires on the wrong-doer, and I can see that people do have to atone for their misdeeds or not grow as people. Living selfishly in the ego is a kind of poverty, there is no way out of that mire, other than by accepting and owning your wrong-doing and wrong-headedness. Then the load is lifted, and what becomes important is not who you were, but what you might become. But vast numbers of people are engaged in heading off this watershed experience, by compulsive busyness, "self-medicating " with alcohol etc, anything to avoid the confrontation with ourselves.


#5    Super Mustache 5000

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 01:46 AM

Isnt good subjective to the individual?


#6    Sevastiel

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 03:28 AM

Generally speaking - anything that sustains and promotes the common well-being without endangering or destroying any part therein.
"common" is the difficult part that invites subjectivity - individual, group, state, nation, land and so forth (maybe even planet in the far future).

Edited by Sevastiel, 01 February 2012 - 03:28 AM.

Now is not the time.

#7    Englishgent

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 04:02 AM

View Postme-wonders, on 31 January 2012 - 11:57 PM, said:

It appears many Christians think people must become Christians and must be saved by Jesus to be moral and good people.  I find this belief rather offensive, and think we should talk about what makes a person good.

I also find it offensive. You do not have to believe in a god to be a good and moral person.
You just need to live a decent life without (intentionally) harming others, help others if and when you can, be selfless, thoughtful,  sympathetic, show caring and respect not just to other humans but to all animals and nature in general. Basically, enjoy life without causing others not to enjoy their lives.
Those who say we need jesus or god to be good and moral people, are, IMO being very disrespectful towards those of us who do not believe and do not have the qualities which would qualify them as good and moral people thenselves!  :).


#8    H.H. Holmes

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 05:21 AM

I agree with most of what is said above, but I don't feel like a "good" person has to abstain from intentionally causing harm. Violence is usually not an answer to a problem, although sometimes force has to be fought with force. A moral person can kill and maim, as long as the ultimate goal of those actions are designed to bring about beneficial results. Everything has to be weighed out when you are trying to decide whether someone is "moral" or not.

What brought someone to their decision? What did that decision result in in terms of negative vs. positive effects (while recognizing that a positive consequence for you resulted in a negative result for your foe)? Even some of the most "evil" people, like Hitler or Pol-Pot, were trying to bring about their idealized world for the sake of their people (however wrongly thought out). They might have been misguided, even insane, but their intentions were good. The saying "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" is so true, one can look all kinds of historical examples of people who try do the right thing, but end up causing unforeseen negative consequences. Very few people, imo, act out of true malice.

Can killing a dictator, serial killer, boogeyman, or some other evil being be considered a "good" or altruistic act? Yes, western literature is filled with examples of heros killing beasts or tyrants to bring about peace and happiness for the people (or themselves). Being a good person itself is no guarantee of survival or success. In fact, I believe that most ancient peoples recognized it as a hinderment to their ultimate goals. Results are what matter and the winner (no matter how good or evil) writes the history. Also, The determination of whether a person is good or evil can also be totally temporal? It can change in retrospect, which, no doubt, many former Nazis had experienced when their initial adoration of Hitler turned to disgust and embarassment years after ( although, many didn't change their minds about him).    

I don't think that basic actions, themselves, can be defined in such broad strokes as "evil" acts and "good" acts. I cannot honestly believe that killing another person, especially when their death would bring about relief and joy to many that they have harmed, is always an evil act sometimes it is a necessity.

Knowledge Speaks, Wisdom Listens- Jimi Hendrix
Admiration for a quality or an art can be so strong that it deters us from striving to possess it.-Friedrich Nietzsche
The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.-Lucius Annaeus Seneca
You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.-Mohandas Gandhi

#9    spiratio

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 06:58 AM

View PostEnglishgent, on 01 February 2012 - 04:02 AM, said:

I also find it offensive. You do not have to believe in a god to be a good and moral person.
You just need to live a decent life without (intentionally) harming others, help others if and when you can, be selfless, thoughtful,  sympathetic, show caring and respect not just to other humans but to all animals and nature in general. Basically, enjoy life without causing others not to enjoy their lives.
Those who say we need jesus or god to be good and moral people, are, IMO being very disrespectful towards those of us who do not believe and do not have the qualities which would qualify them as good and moral people thenselves!  :).

Yes it is true but consider the inverse of this statement too. Im not a Christian however I feel jesus or Yeshua rather, was a real person and he did not advocate religion. So maybe there is still a bit of negativity that hinders one if they loath Christ and direct negative thoughts at him (under the context of his portrayal by religion) when he has done something immeasurably good for the future of the world just by simply having lived his life as a demonstration of the ideal attitude that is divine.

I see many say that it is their opinion that he achieved nothing good, but hey how would you know, and as such one would never know if our world would have been in a worse situation had he not lived his life. The hindus say its only natural for a cosmos/world to decline in potential as it reaches the end of a Yuga (cosmic cycle) so it Christianity hadn't been manipulated to advance certain covert agendas then I'm sure that something else would have been devised in its place. Imo its safer to accept that Christ lived a valid and honourable life than to despise him based on scriptures that have been written and rewritten over and over again


#10    me-wonders

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 07:01 AM

I can see the question "What makes a person good?"  can be interpreted in different ways.  It seems like all the answers  agree that it is a person's conduct that makes a person good.  That is, we judge if a person is good or not, by the person's conduct, but this isn't exactly what makes a person good in the first place.  

Perhaps, we could consider what makes a person a bad, and this might bring us to discussing what makes a person good person, differently than the above answers?  

For example:
A Christian might say it is God or Jesus that makes a person good.  (A external force)

A Buddhist might argue it is detachment and compassion that make a person good. (internal control)

Socrates might argue, it is a person's conscience (coming out of knowledge) that makes the person good, and he worked endlessly to expand people's conscience by asking them questions.  

A psychologist might argue, it is good parenting that makes a person good.  

A sociologist might argue, it is culture that makes people good or bad.  

A zoologist could argue, as social animals, we are genetically programmed to be good.  

Since you all are proven thoughtful people, I look forward to you picking up these possibilities of what makes a person good, and argue for or against them, so we might have understanding of how to make people good.


#11    Englishgent

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 07:51 AM

View Postspiratio, on 01 February 2012 - 06:58 AM, said:

Yes it is true but consider the inverse of this statement too. Im not a Christian however I feel jesus or Yeshua rather, was a real person and he did not advocate religion. So maybe there is still a bit of negativity that hinders one if they loath Christ and direct negative thoughts at him (under the context of his portrayal by religion) when he has done something immeasurably good for the future of the world just by simply having lived his life as a demonstration of the ideal attitude that is divine.

I see many say that it is their opinion that he achieved nothing good, but hey how would you know, and as such one would never know if our world would have been in a worse situation had he not lived his life. The hindus say its only natural for a cosmos/world to decline in potential as it reaches the end of a Yuga (cosmic cycle) so it Christianity hadn't been manipulated to advance certain covert agendas then I'm sure that something else would have been devised in its place. Imo its safer to accept that Christ lived a valid and honourable life than to despise him based on scriptures that have been written and rewritten over and over again

I have no doubt at all that a person known as Jesus (in the bible) was a real person. I certainly do not believe he was the son of god and I personally do not despise him. I think I probably speak for others who do not believe. Why should we despise him? We have no reasono to. It is the people who manipulated his teachings for their own purposes that were despicable, if that is the word we are going to use.
If I was going to despise anyone it would be those who do believe he was the son of god and who try telling me that I should repent and allow jesus into my life and that I cannot be a good or moral person unless I do so.
But I dont even despise them!  I feel sorry for them.   I have nothing against anyone who truly believes in this god, so long as they dont try telling me that I am not a good or moral person just because I do not believe.
I have seen first hand how spiteful and hypocritical some of these so called god fearing people can be.
I do not include all christians in the above statement. Most are decent people and many of my good friends are very religious but they keep their faith to themselves. How it should be. They dont judge me and I dont judge them. :)

edit....another typo :)

Edited by Englishgent, 01 February 2012 - 07:54 AM.


#12    Englishgent

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 08:19 AM

View Postme-wonders, on 01 February 2012 - 07:01 AM, said:

I can see the question "What makes a person good?"  can be interpreted in different ways.  It seems like all the answers  agree that it is a person's conduct that makes a person good.  That is, we judge if a person is good or not, by the person's conduct, but this isn't exactly what makes a person good in the first place.  

Perhaps, we could consider what makes a person a bad, and this might bring us to discussing what makes a person good person, differently than the above answers?  

For example:
A Christian might say it is God or Jesus that makes a person good.  (A external force)

A Buddhist might argue it is detachment and compassion that make a person good. (internal control)

Socrates might argue, it is a person's conscience (coming out of knowledge) that makes the person good, and he worked endlessly to expand people's conscience by asking them questions.  

A psychologist might argue, it is good parenting that makes a person good.  

A sociologist might argue, it is culture that makes people good or bad.  

A zoologist could argue, as social animals, we are genetically programmed to be good.  

Since you all are proven thoughtful people, I look forward to you picking up these possibilities of what makes a person good, and argue for or against them, so we might have understanding of how to make people good.

It is probably a mixture of all the above things IMO

I dont think we are born bad or good.  We learn these things in the first years of childhood.   A child can be born into the poorest slum but with good parenting still grows up knowing good from bad. On the other hand, a child can have the best upbringing, where money is no object, good schooling,  yet still turn out to be an evil b*****d.  
As for being christian, or any other religion for that matter, it makes no difference whatsoever. . There are many religious people who are bad (or evil)
I could go along with 'internal control'  A person knows (generally speaking) that what he is doing, or has done, is bad or wrong. Therefore internal control could work if that person is willing to allow it to work. Basically this is one's conscience telling them it is bad, or wrong. (and please, dont tell me this is god speaking)
The brain is very complex and throughout the years there have been many people who have tried to dig deep inside to discover why we do this, why we do that.  We have come a long way in brain research but I dont think we are even close to knowing the answers..  :)


#13    Sevastiel

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 01:20 AM

View PostEnglishgent, on 01 February 2012 - 08:19 AM, said:

It is probably a mixture of all the above things IMO

I dont think we are born bad or good.  We learn these things in the first years of childhood.   A child can be born into the poorest slum but with good parenting still grows up knowing good from bad. On the other hand, a child can have the best upbringing, where money is no object, good schooling,  yet still turn out to be an evil b*****d.  
As for being christian, or any other religion for that matter, it makes no difference whatsoever. . There are many religious people who are bad (or evil)
I could go along with 'internal control'  A person knows (generally speaking) that what he is doing, or has done, is bad or wrong. Therefore internal control could work if that person is willing to allow it to work. Basically this is one's conscience telling them it is bad, or wrong. (and please, dont tell me this is god speaking)
The brain is very complex and throughout the years there have been many people who have tried to dig deep inside to discover why we do this, why we do that.  We have come a long way in brain research but I dont think we are even close to knowing the answers..  :)

Hmm.  Brings up the notion of someone born with physiological defects of the brain that later exhibit themselves in abnormal behavior that leads to various forms of violence, or the more common variant caused by foreign substances and trauma (physical and emotional).  Perhaps the categorical exception?

The whole nature-nurture thing.  If it's not nature (physical), then it's nurture in some fashion - though always both, barring the above and truly divine intervention scenarios.

Now is not the time.

#14    Sakari

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 01:34 AM

There is not on person in the world that is good their entire life......Self preservation all ways wins out, whether it is money, food, winning, etc.

Every one of us may help people, animals, or the planet....But when it comes down to paying the rent, or feeding our own hunger, we are all guilty of being selfish.


So, being good is taking care of yourself first without cheating, lying, being materialistic, being selfish,  or stealing....And helping others with what you have left over.

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#15    Habitat

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 02:04 AM

View PostSakari, on 02 February 2012 - 01:34 AM, said:

There is not on person in the world that is good their entire life......Self preservation all ways wins out, whether it is money, food, winning, etc.

Every one of us may help people, animals, or the planet....But when it comes down to paying the rent, or feeding our own hunger, we are all guilty of being selfish.


So, being good is taking care of yourself first without cheating, lying, being materialistic, being selfish,  or stealing....And helping others with what you have left over.
Incorrect, and demonstrably so. I see no priority of self-preservation in the countless examples of heroism where people have sacrificed their lives in war and other dramatic circumstances. What happened to the primacy of self-preservation among those who knowingly entered the hell of Chernobyl with the knowledge they would be fatally irradiated ? They also knew that unless someone did, a much greater catastrophe would ensue. Greater love hath no man.....





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