9th June 2010

“I hear Christians say they're going to heaven because they do this, that or the other, they all seem to know what they must do to get there and what they need to not do to avoid the other place. These are not moral acts, they are not acts committed without regard for oneself. These are pragmatic acts, acts committed with a view to reward or avoidance of punishment. An atheist, by contrast expects no reward for good deeds or acts that benefit others. They are not pragmatic, their only intention is to improve the lot of someone else, often at personal cost. No rewards, no punishment. These acts are moral.”

Unknown author

34 Responses to “9th June 2010”

  1. Joanne Says:

    I help my husband at his church give food to the “needy” every week. Of course, they have to close with a prayer. They thanked god for providing all the food, etc. etc.

    Well, one day (BTW, I am an atheist) I said, “excuse me, but if god provided all this food, WHY IS MY BACK KILLING ME!!!

  2. Bornagain A. Theist Says:

    Exactly, Joanne. People are constantly thanking god for stuff he hasn’t done or asking god for things he cannot give. Clearly, we are all the masters of our own destiny.

    In pure theory, the death of christ was supposed to alleviate the need for people wanting to “go to heaven” or “have their sins forgiven” to DO anything at all, but because so many preachers don’t have a clue what the bible say’s – much less teaches, the masses still act as though they were living in old testament times.

    Nevertheless, it is still true that the atheists (like Joanne) perform acts of kindness because they love… and they know they have nothing to fear if they do not perform those acts.

    BAT

  3. Devout Atheist Says:

    That’s funny Joanne,

    My daughters and I also volunteer at a local food pantry run by a church. We often comment to each other how the “regular church people” are sometimes bitter and condescending to the patrons. I’m sure they will make it to heaven with such attitudes. šŸ™‚

  4. EdgarWing Says:

    What I find interesting is that, given that they believe they must do this or that to win an eternity of bliss and not this or that to avoid an eternity of torture, they seem conspicuously unconcerned about whether they know for sure, first, WHAT this or that IS, and, second, whether they are actually doing the right stuff and avoiding the wrong. By the way, they seem to have the same lack of concern for the eternal fate of their children and other loved ones. I mean, if you REALLY believed you and your loved ones were headed for eternal bliss or eternal torture depending on whether you did or didn’t do specific stuff, don’t you think you’d spend a bit of time making sure you knew what that stuff was? I can only conclude that they don’t really believe all the shit they claim to, either.

  5. solomon Says:

    “An atheist, by contrast expects no reward for good deeds or acts that benefit others”

    “WHY IS MY BACK KILLING ME!!!”

    If the unknown author quote is true, then why do I hear complaints form some Atheists( Joanne)

  6. solomon Says:

    Sorry…form..should be from…

  7. CaptainZero1969 Says:

    Good quote today and I agree totally with the comments above. I’ve mentioned before the ‘christian’ battered women’s shelter in my town that requires the women and children that seek refuge there to attend daily prayer groups as the price of their assistance. They also preach that you must return to your abuser because ‘it’s what god wants’. Well I’m sorry. If your husband hits you, take a rock to his nuts when he’s sleeping, get out and don’t look back, whatever the simpleton religious might say. Our donations go to the secular shelter on the other side of town that charges none of your dignity in exchange for their help.

  8. Hypatia Says:

    Thank you Joanne, you made my day!

  9. Hypatia Says:

    Sol, I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make. But this is normal.

  10. solomon Says:

    Hypatia,

    If you think its normal, and the religious have accept it as normal long long time ago, so don’t need to rant about your lots doin’ good & upholding moral whereas the religious have execute both PLUS (+) abide & thankful to God.

  11. PEB Says:

    Solomon – you just summed up the point of the quote (almost) perfectly. “whereas the religious have [to] execute both” – so you are saying religious people MUST do altruistic acts whereas some atheists WANT to.
    There is a big difference here which your omnipotent god will see straight through.
    Or – to put it in a language you will understand. Solomon = does good deeds for a reward = allah’s contempt = FIRES OF HELL!

  12. Joanne Says:

    Solomon, my only complaint is why praise a god that isn’t there for the things I am doing!!!

  13. solomon Says:

    Joanne,
    If you or the atheist are realy sincere in doing good, whether there is God or not, than what is there for the need of complain. This shows the hipocracy of the atheists, only saying what their hearts did’nt realy meant.

  14. Ryedo Says:

    Solomon, WTF are you on about? Criticising god believers for giving credit to a god – rather than themselves and others who help – isn’t hypocrisy.

  15. holysmokes Says:

    It’s a pity we can’t see reliable statistics showing just how many “believers” actually perform “good deeds” out of the goodness of their heart rather than earning brownie points for a trip to heaven. Of course the muslims take that to the extreme by killing innocents to appease their selfish god. With an asshole for a god like allah, who needs a devil or hell?

  16. Atheist MC Says:

    It’s the same with charitable giving. Atheists are very good at it but as a group they are less visible than the religious, who label their charities accordingly (not to mention using them as a front to proselytise). For the record I donate monthly to Foundation Beyond Belief which is an umbrella charity that guarantees only to fund secular causes.

  17. ungullible Says:

    I’m an atheist who actually disagrees with this quote. I happen to believe that there is no such thing as true and pure altruism. There is only enlightened selfishness. ALL acts that appear altruistic have benefits to the giver. If I act selfishly, I will obtain short term gain at the expense of public shunning and thus long term loss. If I act altruistically, I am more likely to receive long term reciprocation at the expense of short term sacrifice. If you doubt this for a moment, ask yourself (for example) would you continue allowing cars to cut in front of you in heavy traffic if nobody ever returned the favor? (If you think you would, I think you are being dishonest with yourself.)

    Even the most extreme cases of sacrifice have hidden return benefits if you know where to look. Evolution has made us willing to die for others because they likely have genes similar to ours. The driving force of nature is not self-preservation, but gene replication (ie Dawkin’s “Selfish Gene”). The closer someone is to our inner circle of family and friends, the more genes they have in common, the stronger our genetic inclination to sacrifice ourselves for the “greater good.”

    I agree that “enlightened selfishness” is better than the morality drivers of religion, but I think it’s wrong to act so high and mighty as if we are purely altruistic.

  18. Margaret Says:

    The quote is true. It is all a matter of marketing or labelling. Those who sell religion do a great job developing their brand, and slandering any opposing veiwpoint.
    Believers are so quick to label anything related to religion as good that they automatically relate any deed done in the name of religion as good. Any charitable act done outside religious motives is automatically suspicious to the minds of believers. I laugh when I think back to my teen years, growing up surrounded by believers, going to church, buying the whole story. Mention the word “Atheist” and two mental pictures rose in the regious mind: 1] crazed lunatic hiding in the bushes to grab, rape, torture OR 2] sociopath in business suit plotting the overthrow of the world to benefit the coming Antichrist. Believers in my church did not see nonbelievers as rational humans. Believers of any other religion were doomed souls to be pitied, & could be excused for being mistaken, but atheists were awful, rejected by God, without redemption, of no value. If an atheist does good, he must be a bad person with ulterior motives. Believers are not willing to change their labels.

  19. Margaret Says:

    Have to agree with Ungullible about there may be rewards other than religious promises to do good. When I help someone, I feel good about it, and that is a reward. I resent the church acting like the only motivation EVER is avoiding the punishment of a diety or getting brownie points in his service. As long as the churches can have us thinking we are serving the lord, we are under their control. That is the real issue. If they can con the general population that they have a monopoly on morals, then they retain their legitimacy and the professional liar clergy can stay in business selling their imaginary product.

  20. Atheist MC Says:

    Ungullible
    I don’t think that negates the quote though. The evolutionary drivers for altruism may well be as you say, but whatever the unconscious motivation, it is still true that acts performed “consciously” for gain, either now or later (or hereafter?) are not altruistic. Nor are acts performed because “you have to”.
    In that sense then atheist altruism is “better”.
    Actually though, even Dawkins, the arch genetic reductionist, would probably disagree with you. Human altruism, whilst springing from evolved behavior is capable of having a purely ethical motivation.

  21. Ryedo Says:

    ungullible,

    “Iā€™m an atheist who actually disagrees with this quote. I happen to believe that there is no such thing as true and pure altruism. There is only enlightened selfishness. ”

    I agree.

    When I help others, I do so because I get a reward. That reward could be anything from seeing a smile of appreciation, hearing a thank you – or easing the pain I feel, i.e., when I see someone suffering – or in a worse situation than – me, I become stressed and filled with mental anguish. Helping them eases the pain I feel – that’s the reward.

    I do, however, think the religious, in a hideous sort of way, are generally more selfish than atheists. Religion seems to attract extremely selfish people: those who wish to avoid punishment for their own misdeeds, those who can’t face the fact that one day they will die, those who seek power and wealth.

    Generally speaking, and IMO, atheist acts of “altruism” revolve around the need to feel appreciated and, perhaps, to ease the mental anguish felt through our empathy for others; theist acts of “altruism” revolve around the selfish need to avoid death and potential punishment.

    If the above is the case, it doesn’t say much about the theists character.

  22. CaptainZero1969 Says:

    There actually are ‘christian’ sects where altruism is EXPLICITLY not a requirement. There’s cars driving around with “redemption through faith, not works” bumper stickers advertising it as a benefit of their brand that they aren’t gonna ask you to, I don’t know, help people in some way. Must be where to find all the objectivists on Sunday.

    And, I agree with UnG that self interest underlies good actions but that doesn’t make the actions any less valuable from a social standpoint.

  23. Edmond Says:

    The quote is true enough, and it’s certainly worth debating the motivation of secular altruism, there are good points on both sides of that. But the funny thing is, like CaptainZero1969 points out, good works really have nothing to do with redemption, and evil deeds have nothing to do with punishment.

    You could live the most criminally vile life possible, but as long as you recant on your deathbed and accept Jesus, heaven lets you in. Heaven could be full of the worst murderers, rapists, pedophiles etc, as long as they drink the Kool-Aid in the end. In contrast, hell would be full of the nicest, friendliest, kindest, most helpful atheists you’ve ever met, but they deserve eternal torture for the “crime” of not being convinced by ghost stories and fairy tales.

  24. Atheist MC Says:

    I guess it depends on how vaguely you define self interest. Ryedo’s analysis I would agree with. Doing “good” (another relative concept) is self satisfying even if it is not self serving.
    The ethical concept that appeals most to me is a form of utilitarianism that accepts that what most people want is to be happy. “Happy” is not an absolute either, but as human beings we have a sense of what makes our fellow human beings happy, or happier. Insofar as it does not impinge on anyone else’s happiness, I try to do what I can to improve the overall level of happiness around me.
    That is why I am socially liberal, that is why I I commit to charities, that is why I am an atheist.
    Religion is predicated on the myth that life is not meant to be fulfilling. It is an oppressive form of social control that says “this, and only this, is the way you can live your earthly life. Comply and you get eternal bliss, rebel and you get eternal hell”.
    This is why religious people deny others the freedom to love who they want, it is why they mutilate the genitalia of young women and restrict their freedom, it is why they oppose planned parenthood, it is why they defend racial segregation and it is why they terrorise each other.

  25. PEB Says:

    It’s not surprising theists are self serving. Just look at their role model. God created a world and filled it with people for the purpose of worshipping him.
    Even though he knew these people would ‘sin’ and suffer he went ahead and did it anyway?!
    Good job he doesn’t exist then.

  26. solomon Says:

    Ryedo,
    WTF are you accusing me of. You either does’nt understands my words or does’nt read the whole story or simply pretend not to understand or purposely try to make me look bad.

  27. Atheist MC Says:

    Sol
    The rest of ignored you because you don’t understand irony. Which was what Joanne’s comment was. Sometimes it just isn’t worth the effort explaining this stuff to you.

  28. Braathwaate Says:

    Without reward & punishment there would be no religion.

  29. solomon Says:

    Would a good, honest, sincere humam do useless despicable acts(homosex)? That is a very clear indicator that the Atheists are hiding in trying to look good. Wait till they are realy tested on their acts. Then you’ll discover their true self. Beasts & Evil….it will show up some day…believe me…

  30. Braathwaate Says:

    Solomon, Muslims are responsible for the most despicable acts in the world today! Without the shield of religion to hide behind Islam would be banned from the civilized world.

  31. CaptainZero1969 Says:

    Who won the “Sol mentions homosexuals” pool?

  32. solomon Says:

    Braathwaate,

    Nope. Islam will flourish. You will see people will embrace Islam in flocks. That’s God’s promise and its gettin’ clear. The Atheists will be DOOMED!!!

  33. solomon Says:

    Back to the quote.

    The religous or the wise have long ago practice the willingness of not accepting rewards or threatened by punishments in doing good. They do it for the sake of Allah, willingly due to their appreciation and thankful to God who have sustain their needs.
    The rewards or punishments are directed to the stubborn, pig headed and unthankful lots, all laid out as a system to maintain law and order.

  34. Braathwaate Says:

    Solomon, without the false promise of sexual favors in the afterlife would those gullible lunatics be persuaded to commit all insane acts of terror that have become so common in the world we live in?