Goodness – me!

Do you ever stop to think what you would like on your gravestone when you are dead?  It’s a good way of finding out what we really want to be like.  I don’t think any of us would like to see phrases like:

“Always selfish and greedy”

“Never had time for anyone else”

“Vindictive and hateful”

When we see a new baby, at a christening who would want to think that the baby would grow up to be a thief, or to have a string of husbands who she cheated on and deserted, or to be a child molester.

We know deep down that we want to be good.

In the 11th century, Anselm of Canterbury described how being good is possible through ‘goodness’, and how supreme goodness is God.  So that desire to be good is actually us wanting to be like God (supreme goodness), to act like God, to be in his image.

St John’s describes in his gospel that God is love.  So when we love one another, our love is possible through love, which is through God.  We are choosing to act like God, to be part of God.

Each of us has the essence of goodness in us, and the essence of love in us.  God is goodness and God is love, so we all have God within us.  Sometimes we choose to ignore goodness and love, and instead choose to be selfish, vindictive or hateful.  But that is not what we want to be – as we found at the start of this post.

The true Christian religion is about helping us to be what we want to be – good and loving.  It is about connecting with that goodness and love within us; God within us.  It is about learning from Christ what goodness and love looks like, and trying to imitate him.

And if you want to be good and loving, then that means that you want to be like God.  Jesus said that ‘if you have seen me then you have seen God’; Jesus represented supreme goodness and love in human form.  So if you want to be good and loving, since Jesus was supremely good and loving, then you want to be like Jesus, and if you want to be like Jesus you can call yourself a Christian.

Christians pray to help make that connection with goodness and love.  Here’s an example of a Celtic prayer from Lindisfarne:

Help me dear Lord to care too much

To love too freely

To pray unceasingly

To forgive endlessly

To laugh fearlessly

To question

To live

To be who I am

To be where I am

To be what I am

To hope

To believe

To reach out my hand

That’s a good prayer, isn’t it?  It’s about connecting with God within us.  It’s asking God to help us be who we want to be.

Do you want to be the sort of person that the prayer describes?  You can take a step closer by praying that prayer.

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About Minimalist Christian

Phil Hemsley is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK. He works for a multinational company in the power industry, has presented technical papers at international conferences and holds many patents. He has published two books, the most recent is "The Big Picture, an Honest Examination of God Science and Purpose". He has lived on both sides of the faith fence. He is married, with two daughters.
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13 Responses to Goodness – me!

  1. Deri says:

    I like your logical thinking; never thought logic had much to do with religion. My problem from this post is that yes, I want to be thought of as decent, spiritual, loving, etc but I no longer want to be tarred with the label of “Christian”. Few of Christ’s followers are like you. The ‘baggage that Christianity has accumulated’ includes a lot of hurtful weaponry and I have been targeted too often. The slogans, labels, dogmas, customs, traditions of organised religions add toxicity to the message.


    • Hello Deri,
      I really appreciate your comment. It’s something I’m passionate about, and I think Christ was too – that religion can get between man and God. You might like my book ‘The Leap’ – try the first chapter which you can download here.
      I fully understand your comments about the label – how about ‘Minimalist Christian’? Decent people who just want to follow Christ? (see ‘about’ at the top)


      • Pippa Soundy says:

        Many people have needed to ditch the term ‘Christian’ in order to ditch the baggage, so something like ‘Jesus people’ works for me – it’s plural for a start – this is not an individualist religion – and links us to the one we follow.


        • Deri says:

          Pippa, thanks but no thanks. I am seeking some sort of spirit connection but I have become convinced that plural is dangerous to me. Call them Jesus Freaks or Xians, most people who profess Christ don’t want me along, and I have been threatened when I tried, simply because I felt I was born in the wrong gender. Phil uses the term ‘decent people’ and a Jesus woman told me I was not one. I think Native American religions got it about right, and there is no Jesus there.


          • I’m not impressed by what you say of the ‘Jesus woman’. Christ once said “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” There were many very spritual people who chose not to be part of a community – such as St Cuthbert. I suggest you go straight to the source of spirit. 🙂


  2. Sorry Deri, Just realised that my first sentence could be read two ways! What I mean is that I was not impressed by her behaviour. Re-reading the sentence it sounded like I might be criticizing you – not at all, and sorry if it sounded like that.


    • Deri says:

      I took it the way you meant. Nor did I mean to use language offensive to Christians. I said ‘Jesus woman’ to echo Pippa’s term ‘Jesus people’. I do respect Christians mostly, as a child I was raised Anglican. But I just don’t want to identify now with people who want to hurt me. I live in an Islamic country now, and there is far more respect and politeness here than I ever encountered in ‘Christian’ places. Doesn’t your Book say somewhere ‘by your actions they will know you’?


      • A true Christian will not want to hurt you, but sadly many are too immature to know how to love simply. I find it can help to put things down to incompetence that seem like malice. May the God of infinite love and goodness bless you!


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  5. Cathy says:

    I like the prayer.


  6. Steve Lee says:

    You begin by asking whether I have ever stopped to think about what I would like written on my gravestone. The answer to that question is no, for it will not bother me what is written on it when it is written on it. This holds true whether we pretend there is an afterlife or not. Should you come back to life in heaven, what is written on your gravestone will be of no concern – positive or negative, for you will be too busy delighting in.. whatever it is there is to delight in. Should you come back to life and find yourself being tortured for no valid reason, then what is written on your gravestone will be the very least of your concerns. Whether we posit an afterlife or not, what happens to be written on a piece of rock the corpse that theists proclaim NOT you is of no concern, and nor should it be.

    You proceed to say that when we see a newborn, we don’t want them to be a thief or a child molester. Needless to say, I don’t want them to work in McDonalds or grow up hating the music I like, but this says nothing concerning the moral implications of such things. One must ask WHY you do not want your child to grow up to be a thief. Why not? The answer is because, ultimately, thieves tend to suffer in a manner that McDonalds employees do not. Even if they are never caught, they tend to suffer in ways that McDonalds employees don’t – fear and guilt and all kinds of other life destroying emotions that you don’t get when working 9 to 5. As a social species, you desire that your children do something that aids their well-being, and it is neither magic nor some special insight on your part that creates such desire. We wish our children health and happiness, and the simple uncontestable fact is that thievery and paedophilia do not typically provide it.

    You proceed to say that you desire to be good, which is actually wanting to be like a god. Given that you also openly declare the existence of free will, one must wonder why you consistently and freely choose to go against god’s will (sin). Right now I’ll put all my money on your answer negating free will. “I am not perfect” (born faulty and incapable), “everyone makes mistakes” (unintentional outcome), “I can’t help it” (self explanatory). If you wanted to be like a god and had free will, you’d be like a god. The reality is that you don’t want to be good, for not a day goes by where you bother doing it.

    You then say that “when we love one another, our love is possible through love, which is through God.”

    I don’t want to be the one to point out the stupidity of a statement that says “love is possible through love”, but I would request evidence for your claim that love comes through a god, as opposed to through the evolution of our social species, who would not exist were it not for emotional feelings towards others of their species.

    You then say that we should imitate Christ. Alas you offer no ‘true teaching’, for Christ as depicted in the bible was quite the nasty individual. Jesus is the one who demanded that you hate your children and parents (e.g Luke 14), dismissed the needs of the poor (Matt 26), was aggressive and rude, and even refused to help a woman’s sick child because she wasn’t from the same country (Matt 15). A child. Yes, he refuses to help a child simply because this child’s mother didn’t happen to be from the same country. In the modern day, we call that racism.

    Imagine if a woman came up to you and asked you to heal her sick child (you have the ability), and you refuse because she comes from Africa. Apologies, but this is NOT something to imitate.

    You say “Jesus said that ‘if you have seen me then you have seen God’”

    Alas, you’ve not seen Jesus – except perhaps in a cheese toastie or dog’s rectum, and the only image of Jesus you have seen is likely of some white guy, which is simply, and undeniably, contrary to any plausible reality.

    You say “So if you want to be good and loving, since Jesus was supremely good and loving, then you want to be like Jesus”, which brings me back to two points:

    1. You regularly, freely choose to sin. Clearly you don’t want to be like Jesus.
    2. Jesus was NOT “supremely good and loving” unless you use the word supremely to mean not much, and less than most 5 year olds.

    Finally, you offer a prayer: “Help me Lord..” it begins, as if you are somehow INCAPABLE of being good unless a god makes it so. But if you are INCAPABLE without the intrusions of a god, what is it to declare yourself to have free will instead of being a robot bereft of personal, free choice. But then what are you saying? Dear a god, my nature is X, please make it Y? I didn’t choose to have nature X, and I would prefer nature Y. Please ensure that my ‘choices’ are good ones by changing my nature X to nature Y. Dear Lord, kindly change the OS, change the chip. There’s nothing “free” here.



  7. I’m intrigued Steve as to why you are so angry and aggressive, and indeed why someone who is completely certain that there is no god takes the time to write such a long comment. But of course, with no free will (which you have asserted elsewhere to be a delusion), you could not have commented differently and I could not have replied differently.


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