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What is the relationship between Christianity and altruism?

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I know the Christian ethic is basically one of self-abnegation. But what is the relationship between the Christian tradition and the fact that altruism is the dominant morality in modern times? Is the dominance of altruism a direct result of the teachings of Christianity, or is the realtionship more epistemological?

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Is the dominance of altruism a direct result of the teachings of Christianity, or is the relationship more epistemological?

A little bit of both.

Christianity teaches people to feel guilty for their own virtues; their reason (faithlessness), pride (arrogance), desire (lust), ambition (greed), et cetera. Every thing that's good about a person, Christianity teaches them to be ashamed of it.

That guilt doesn't necessarily end when someone rejects Christianity, either. There are plenty of adamant atheists who openly claim that human beings are worthless, miserable little wretches. Since each of us only has direct access to a single mind, whenever you hear a generalization about the human race, you're hearing what the speaker thinks primarily about himself. There are plenty of atheists in the world who still feel, deep down, like they're basically worthless.

That sense of personal worthlessness then screws up a person's ability to think clearly. What's the point of figuring out the truth if you're not fit to know it (which means you're not fit to live)?

There are a lot of different parts that all kind of reinforce each other.

The thing to notice about it, though, is that none of it comes from instinct or from the facts of reality; it's passed down from parents to offspring, for no reason except that it had been passed to them by their parents (and their parents' parents, all the way back to the dawn of written history).

When you hear some sloppy altruistic slogan, you're hearing the echoes of prehistory being spread through nothing more than their own fading inertia.

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What's really funny about it is when you hear them talk about innovation and technilogical progress; more often than not, they themselves sense that they're obsolete (which is the primary source of their hysteria about it).

All the vitriol they spew at anything new or different is really just fear of the knowledge that their time is almost over.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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Great posts by Harrison.  Here's another observation.  Jesus the Christ tried to change the fundamental dynamic of human interaction - think about how the other person thinks before you act.  It was an attempt at empathy which is a good, but without a foundation in metaphysics and epistemology it turns into altruism after bullies have their way over hundreds of years.  Also, of course, the metaphysical foundation of mysticism is flawed.

 

This idea spread and became institutionalized after Constantine.  The fall of Rome gave men an opening to create another empire under the philosophy of Christ.  But who is drawn to being in charge instead of just the joy of making a living?  It's the same story, repeated over and over until present times - the bullies rise to the top.

 

The men drawn to lead (instead of living) are bullies, they should be immediately suspect.  A government without a strong and specific republican (not the present US political party) constitution will attract the bullies, though they may be cloaked in the blanket of helping the poor or weak.  You cannot give the power to use force to your government, unless you decide that all other social functions you desire, will be placed in the private sector.  The power to initiate force, given the total spectrum of human identity (including the bullies), cannot be given except for the function of countering force against the citizens.  America almost had it, but not quite.

Edited by jacassidy2

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.

I've noticed the failure of Jesus to preach altruism in the Bible. "Love your neighbor as yourself," which was also trumpeted by Paul, hardly measures up to such dicta as "Service above Self" (Rotary Club).

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7 hours ago, Boydstun said:

.

I've noticed the failure of Jesus to preach altruism in the Bible. "Love your neighbor as yourself," which was also trumpeted by Paul, hardly measures up to such dicta as "Service above Self" (Rotary Club).

Isn't the "Sermon on the Mount" the place that people point to for the core Christian ethical theory? How much of altruism is in there? 

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sN,

Looking into the New Testament just now, I see that Jesus gave two overarching commandments. Firstly, to love God with all your heart and mind; secondly, to love your fellow humans as you love yourself (Luke 10). I gather he thought you should be loving yourself. This prophet was going around, as the story goes, performing miracles to good purposes for humans of earth. So there is a large reservoir of mystical power in the background of the moral perspective he declares.

He says he is adding to and completing the old Commandments, and he gives some examples of how to go above and beyond their letter with an understanding of them grounded in love. Not only do not murder, but do not be angry with your fellow human nor call your fellow a fool nor look down on your fellow. Else be punished by God. Make peace with your fellow before coming to the altar to leave a gift for God. (And don’t be making a big show of your gifts to God or to your fellows.)

In some cases, he reverses the old precepts. Down with “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” Rather, do not resist evil. Turn the other cheek for the evildoer to hit as well. Down with loving only those who love you. “What credit is that to you? Even the tax-collectors do that!” Love your enemies as well. Then you are sharing in the perfections that are possessed by God (Matthew 5).

His moral rationales are shot through with alleged reciprocities of benefit to one performing the good act. These are benefits, physical and social, coming back to one who sticks with God in letting go of benefits for now. The coming back will be from other humans or from God.

In his model prayer, Jesus says to ask God for the bread one needs and to forgive one’s failures, as one is forgiving the failures of others (Luke 11). Some reciprocity here, and nothing against bread for oneself.

Beyond keeping the religious law, Jesus tells one wealthy man who keeps the law, yet still feels incomplete, to reach perfection by giving all his possessions and money to the poor. He’ll have riches in heaven if he does that. Meanwhile, join Jesus in his crusade (Matthew 18).

From the Sermon on the Mount:

“How happy are those who know their need for God, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

“How happy are those who know what sorrow means, for they will be given courage and comfort!

“Happy are those who claim nothing, for the whole earth will belong to them!

“Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for true goodness, for they will be fully satisfied.

“Happy are the merciful, for they will have mercy shown to them!

“Happy are the utterly sincere, for they will see God!

“Happy are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of goodness, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

“And what happiness will be yours when people blame you and ill-treat you and say all kinds of slanderous things against you for my sake! Be glad then, yes, be tremendously glad—for your reward in Heaven is magnificent. . . .

“You are the earth’s salt. . . .

“You are the world’s light. . . . (Matthew 5)

I rather think that building a case for altruism—or for socialism or for capitalism—based on the teachings of Jesus is far off the mark. Altruism is the doctrine that moral goodness is from sacrifice of self for the benefit of one’s fellow humans. Jesus-likeness without God at center of moral goodness should be laughed out of court.

(The translations are by J. B. Phillips.)

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15 hours ago, Boydstun said:

.I've noticed the failure of Jesus to preach altruism in the Bible. "Love your neighbor as yourself," which was also trumpeted by Paul, hardly measures up to such dicta as "Service above Self" (Rotary Club).

Allowing yourself to be crucified to redeem the sins of man does, though. Jesus was more of a lead by example than a preachin' kinda fictional character.

Edited by Nicky

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51 minutes ago, Nicky said:

Allowing yourself to be crucified to redeem the sins of man does, though.

That, in itself, is not altruistic, because Jesus is supposed to be both a man and God. So he doesn't actually die in any real way, and isn't throwing away a greater value in exchange for a lesser value. As far as Jesus is concerned, he went through a difficult time that would allow good people to go to heaven. 

Of course, this implies original sin and plenty of other ideas, but I wouldn't necessarily say that the crucifixion was altruistic. 

The altruistic parts of Christianity are more about how to get closer to God and the devotion you need to put forth towards God, while denying your overly earthly values. Probably not as altruistic as many atheists (try) to be, but if your earthly values and pride need to be minimized (a golden mean that leans away from selfishness), doing good for the sake of others is going to be pretty common.

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I took a peek at the Wikipedia article on the Sermon on the Mount, and one thing that struck me was "Together, the Beatitudes present a new set of ideals that focus on love and humility rather than force and exaction; ".  So not relying on force would be a point in common between this sermon and Objectivism.  Of course the alternative presented is omitting reason and trade, and in that respect is severely lacking.  

If we want to analyze the relationship between Christianity and altruism in depth, we probably need to distinguish among what's actually in the Bible, what interpretations have been added to it, and what altruism from other sources has been passed down.

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