Sunday, November 8, 2015

Do you worship the Devil then?

'God Light' Or maybe just inspiring
I just read an article about a study of kids carried out across a fairly diverse range of countries - the study’s results showed that non-religious children are more altruistic and show more empathy than religious children. Well blow me down with a feather! Are you as shocked as I am?
Ok, well, no, I am not shocked.  Except maybe that apparently we don’t already know this to be a fact.

So of course I posted it to Facebook with a little introduction sharing my thoughts that I was glad, at least, to have one study backing up something I already knew to be true – but one of my friend’s response gave me the title, and motivation to write this post. She identifies as an atheist and commented
"I too am non religious, atheist actually, and have three non religious boys (now men) who have good strong morals and ethics and have empathy and compassion for fellow beings and creatures. It irks me when people who are religious perceive my non religiousnesstherefore having no morals or a code of ethics...and therefore evil. Someone actually asked me if I worship the devil because I am an atheist"

I’d like to laugh. It has happened to me also (though I don't think I am quite athiest)  but this way of thinking,  I believe, is one of the most destructive forces we have in our little earth these days (and  past): the misleading of people away from our common humanity, in the guise of religion. Not faith – which is also commonly confused as the same as religion, I’m talking about the more and more commonplace extreme Christianity, Judaism, Islam and so on, that so many people seem hell-bent on practicing. The 'I'm righteous and if you don't believe what I believe, you worship the devil and deserve persecution or even to die' line of rationalization.

Those of you who have read my posts over the years would know I am not religious and that my lack of faith in faith became evident during my school years when I could not help but realize that much of what we were told to be ‘fact’ was, to say the least, highly questionable as fact and indeed, took a leap of faith to accept as fact. A leap, I have to say, I never had in me. No religion gene here.

So, to the core of the matter – what is our motivation to care about others and to be empathetic and altruistic? I do it because I can hardly help myself –it’s in me and it makes me feel good to boot. 

What is a religious person’s reason for doing ‘right’? To be highly favoured perhaps; to be accepted in the Kingdom of Heaven? To be one of the numbered? To avoid going to Hell? Be canonised? Have people in Church recognize them as righteous? Or maybe just because ‘God sees everything'. Perhaps all, perhaps one or two and of course, in some cases, there may be no more motivation than it feels good or they can hardly help themselves – but that is the core motivation of good humans and does not, in any way, shape or form, need religion to exist.

By its very nature, religion relates doing good to receiving a reward. And in so doing, I think, sadly, the very nature of doing good, is sullied. 

Then there is the inherent issue that religion necessitates one group being right and all others, wrong. Granted, some religions place less emphasis on this, but increasingly, far too many make it a central part of their dogma. How then can empathy exist – empathy which requires a certain level of being able to identify with another’s problem in a way that leads to commonality?How can altruism flourish when a one-off assistance granted to someone may be ok to render, but if you are to keep blessing anyone with your help, they can’t be non-believers.

Without this external motivation of reward or wrath from On High, surely those of us who do good just for the sake of it have indeed a better grasp on what altruism and empathy are and indeed, demonstrate good strong ethics and morals. This is, indeed, the deepest level of free will you will ever be able to attain.

I am not saying there is no place for faith and I know many people whose faith is indeed beautiful to me; I do not need to feel the same as them to be able to see the beauty. But religion is another matter. And the extreme practices religion all too often shepherds people into – there is no empathy, altruism or moral ethics down that slippery path to hell.

 What do you think? What are your experiences and what motivates you to be altruistic, to judge or accept? And what guides your morals and ethics?