29th September 2008

“While I respect the efforts of faith-driven individuals who carry out humanitarian work, I find nobler the similar efforts of those motivated solely by human compassion.”

Ian Quayle

7 Responses to “29th September 2008”

  1. chris Says:

    I feel the same way. So much of what I’ve seen in religious giving come with strings attached: the local women’s shelter that encourages women to go back to abusive husbands because of the divine authority of marriage and requires the sheltered to attend prayer meetings. Saint Vincent de Paul which takes donations that do not go to the needy but are, rather converted to currency in its thrift stores – used, no doubt, in paying the legal bills of pedophiles. Service orgs like the masons whose only requirement is that you profess a belief in god.

    When these folks say “If there’s no God then anything is allowed” you ought to sit up and take notice for they are admitting they’d be little more than a hunting pack without the brakes applied by belief in a superstition. Can someone with such a house of cards reason for doing good rather than evil really be considered “human”? Fortunately, I don’t think there are many that would actually begin raping and murdering the moment god’s existence is disproved. Sara Palin’s preacher, maybe.

  2. Terence Meaden Says:

    Ian Quayle has made a good point that is rarely heard,

    . . . and Chris has responded well.

  3. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    As a Christian, if I’m honest , I would have to agree at least somewhat with this statement. The “hidden” face of at least some faith-driven humanitarian work is often pretty God damned ugly.

    Many years ago I spent a lot of time on the streets (drugs and alchohol, etc…). It was a requirement in many “gospel mission” shelters that one had to listen to a sermon before one could get a bed or a meal. This “sermon was almost always of the “fire and brimstone” variety, i.e., “you are a worthless sinner who doesn’t deserve God’s love and will spend an eternity in the eternal torment of the flames of Satan’s pit along with all the other godless heathens spoiling God’s world.” Along with everyone else at the time, I hated it, but I often sat through it just the same. I was a tired and hopeless addict – so what if I had to listen to some a-hole tell me what I already knew to get a bowl of unidentifiable gruel? I say “hidden” face because occasionally the preacher or some other representative of the shelter would make a plea on the TV or in the newspaper for more money, food, clothing, etc… so they could help “the poor forgotton street people” live better, more hopeful lives. The look on their faces, or the tone of their voices, or the sense of their words always exuded compassion and concern – and later that evening they’d be right back behind the pulpit telling us we were all going to go to hell. When someone finally managed to finally find a way to escape the hopelessness of the street, like I did (and no, God did not magically take my addiction from me), it was in spite of that preacher’s “care and compassion,” never because of it.

    Most of the appeals one sees on TV and in print these days – World Vision, Christian Children’s Fund, etc… – play on middle-class guilt far more than human compassion. Yes, children get fed, I know, but I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before those children begin to hear about their worthlessness as the price for having been fed. Most of those Christian charities are, after all, very, very conservative…

    These days I attend a Lutheran congregation. Call it 90% “liberal/progresive/moderate/whatever.” A lot of good people do a lot of good work there. Most of us are politically active in some way, and though our faith is “public,” we don’t flaunt it. Our pastor doesn’t preach a “Jesus or else” theology. If he did, we’d run him out of town faster than you can say “Jesus H. Christ.” I am a part of a twice-a-month study group that includes an long-married couple who are atheists: they were instrumental in helping me get of the street. They are more noble and compassionate and humble than 95% of the people I’ve ever met (I’m 46).

    I KNOW that ANYONE can be compssionate and noble regardless of their belief or lack thereof.

    As for Sarah Palin; as a Christian al I have to say is “I’m so f**kin’ sorry. Please forgive us.”

  4. Critic Says:

    Oxymoronic Christhinker:

    Wow.

    Thanks for that post.

    Critic.

  5. ENTROPY Says:

    Agreed… agreed… agreed. Why is it that Christians can’t act humane without trying push their agendas and beliefs on the unfortunate? It’s easy to take the burned and broken and shape them into anything you want simply by dangling something good in front of them… The religious “humanitarian” groups use these services simply to increase their numbers because they know the most unfortunate are most receptive to “faith”. It’s going to be easier to turn a starving child into a believer than a successful and happy non-believer. It’s easy to say, “well, they’re better off now”, but at what cost? A life of delusional servitude? No thanks. How about you just give them some food an water without the strings attached? It’s not like they have money to give to your organization every Sunday…

    And, yes… thank you Oxy… it’s nice to see a believer that hasn’t lost touch with the really real word. You are forgiven… not that it means much coming from and Atheist, but you know what I mean.

  6. Chris Says:

    Oxy – thank you for your inspiring story. You are a credit to your faith. I’ve always appreciated those that really walk the talk.

    If I may be so bold, be an agent provocateur for us in the “enemy” camp and disabuse your co-religonists of the notion that belief is the sole pathway to a highly ethical morality.

    You and the vast majority of the faith community bear no responsibility for the creation of a Sara Palin but I think you (collectively) do have a responsibility for denouncing their excesses in the same way that we all said after 9-11 “Where are the Muslim imams denouncing this attrocity?” It was a fair question then and it’s a fair one now. Believers of this sort must be squeezed out of serious conversations and marginalized. Their beliefs are poison to a civil, advanced and pluralistic society.

  7. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    I appreciate all your comments.

    ENTROPY says:
    “You are forgiven… not that it means much coming from an Atheist…”

    Forgiveness means as much coming from an atheist as it does coming from anyone else. Don’t ever think that your own gift of forgivenes goes unappreciated. At least not by me.

    Chris says:
    “If I may be so bold, be an agent provocateur for us in the “enemy” camp and disabuse your co-religonists of the notion that belief is the sole pathway to a highly ethical morality.”

    I am currently leading an on-going (10 weeks, one hour per week) discussion on “atheism” for interested members of our church. There is about 40 of us in the group (in a congregation of about 900; the twice-a-month study group I mentioned in my post above is a different group). Another 30 or so have asked for summaries of the discussion via email since they are unable to attend for various reasons. I asked for input concerning such a “class” on this site a few months ago. In any case, one of the BIG questions is the question of the so-called “moral law” – or as you put it, “a highly ethical morality” – and its source. Without going into all the ins-and-outs of our discussion, I have “suggested” that perhaps it is better to see morality as a human, evolution driven “law,” rather than God-commanded (I believe there are theological and even biblical reasons for thinking this, not to mention science). The point is, although I do not see myself as “an agent provocateur for [atheists] in the enemy camp,” I do try to do my part to “disabuse [my] co-religonists of the notion that belief is the sole pathway to a highly ethical morality.”

    “You and the vast majority of the faith community bear no responsibility for the creation of a Sara Palin…”

    Thanks for the loophole, Chris, but yes we f**kin’ do! Don’t ever let the “faith community” off the hook for being responsible in all the ways that really matter for the stupidities spewing from the lips of the Sara Palins of the world. Not even me. Praise our words/actions when appropriate, criticize them relentlessly (be civil if possible) when necessary.

    “You are a credit to your faith. I’ve always appreciated those that really walk the talk. ”

    I don’t know about that. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But thanks for the kind words.