theism is just one step further than athrocentrism/humanism
at first there was ‘mate preservation’ and nurturing, then species bias, then turning to group bias, then ethnocentrism and then again to egocentrism.
so can you be good without god(s)?
not really, not logically. it fails by contradiction the necessary tautology of ‘good being defined by culture’. if you forsake the sacred reverence towards greater community, then as long as good is defined by said community, you can’t be good.
this being ‘good’ is an entirely different premise however from exhibiting (natural) conscience. you can (and should) have innate within you the capacity and tendency to not behave in the ways deemed most deplorable by society. that is to say, lacking goodness doesn’t make you a murderer or someone to fear; merely someone to watch.
but lacking the shared values and phobias and to such degree you don’t express reverence towards deluded group phobias, may exclude you from the group. furthermore selfish thinking leading to ‘heartless’ reasonings which destroy the legacy others wish to leave their children, may alienate you through your will/desire from greater community.
the cliche “think of the children” rhetoric is pandering and delusion often to further dogmatic and prejudiced goals of selfish nature. however voicing discontent about how the concept is used to disservice community, without explicitly stating so, may make others skeptical of your ethical capacity.
you are right there isn’t anything inherently good in present/past generation gods, but mostly due to corrupt human structure (they were logicless). however there is something inherently bad, about people not wanting inclusion in greater community; or at least it is perceived that way. it is indicative of a person not being loyal to the group, thus generally not trustworthy, thus not reliable; thus of questionable value to ‘self’ and society. which is indicative of the general sense of poor character.
so what is there in god(s) which makes someone trustworthy? after all aren’t most gods racist, if not genocidal, in their desire for ideological and geo-political worship/tax spread?
people hold onto meaning more than truth or accuracy. the meaning is created from their paradigm- their paradigm by their environment- and their environment in large part by their culture; especially now. people will fight ‘the good fight’ to validate their existence, to take some part of the meaning they have access to and own it. which is why even if there is corrupt clergy for the theistic god of home and family (like the US republicans), people will still worship and tithe.
they need, more than anything, to be accepted by their community- sometimes even as a villian. and most want to be not just accepted as an entity in the canon, but preferably a character or person who is found to be valuable, and good, and a member of the preferred most personal group. in order to express this they grasp at metaphor and deification. they see characters embodying values they recognize and want others to recognize in them, and they praise these characters openly to try to ‘breed’ the kind of commmunity or civilization or world they want to live in.
often this is why gods are associated loosely with character traits/capacities like wisdom romanticizing the learning of life lessons. as well as heavy handed metaphor like light representing truth, or security/safety; because now you can see what lay before you and what opposes you.
but can we be good without god? good god no. that is to say- ‘goodness’ itself can be a god, and tautologically if it was you would find yourself in the paradox/contradiction of whether 0 is a positive number. whether you can be good without good is objectively irrelevant because by getting stuck on the question of qualitative capacity, one skips over quantitative method. and the lack of method invallidates the more important part of the question; ‘is it possible?’ maybe; ‘can i do it?’ if you don’t how to practice it, how can you?
worship/admire the good in others publicly, concede your evil to improve yourself, and grow together. you may not have to publicly build alters or write texts to try to better the world. but you must publicly profess your convictions, for the public to know you have them. it may come across as bullying but that is a topic for another time.
none the less it stands that you must recognize the good that exists outside of oneself, for others to extend the same gratuity, and you must try to be part of the group adopting socio-linguistic adaptations. including what and how god is argued to be. without giving into the group think- even if it necessitates double think due to empirical clerical/samaritan evidence, one must.
we stand before the fallen alter of another dead god, but it is our nature not to abscond gods all together but to find or build a new one. let those shattered idols and prayer bead promises echo out. this new one may have similar character and simply a new name/brand to identify it as different. and it may end up being more of a coat of paint than a entirely new revision/iteration of god. but without society, there are no social values. without positive social values, there can be no good, because good is universally a social/communal (contextually limited and biased) value/concept. and individualism or science, while offering many things of value, doesn’t deal in the good of good.
we have altered (pun intended) our environment before to change our quality of life and thus our conditions. and we can condition ourselves to be better still by ‘exhalting’ the good of each with praise and reverence and difference. so let the incoherent clacking of prayer beads and the coercive mumbling of imagined fools fall silent before the wake of a better deity, and better ritual.
science and individualism don’t create myths of personal place, but rather are broken minded versions which do not and can not appeal to base humanity just like agrarian tendencies failed to entice hunter gatherers. we are animals, who generally need pack-like tribes to interact with to have a fulfilled life… we need good, so why not worship it as the patron god of humanity/civilization?