In the Name of Good
November 25, 2009 § 12 Comments
I made a tweet this morning, based on this news story I read in The Daily Press about a group of students at Bethel Christian School who: “took part in a variety of projects, including writing letters and sending care packages to troops in Iraq, assembling food boxes and grooming kits for the Peninsula Rescue Mission, cleaning up Bluebird Gap Farm, completing household chores for elderly neighbors and sharing musical talents at Sunrise House and Morningside Assisted Living Centers, and at the Gardens at Warwick Forest Nursing Home.”
These activities, in and of themselves, are quite noble humanitarian acts, and are worthy of praise. There are not enough people out there willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Especially when the deeds are done for no other reason than selfless kindness.
Oh, did I say selfless? I read on:
“We were trying to emphasize the principle of service, giving something and not just receiving,” said Robert Brinkley, principal at the school. “Here at the school, we always say we should provide service to God and our fellow man, so this project fit nicely with our philosophy.”
OK then, the reasons they did it, were in this order: “God and our fellow man”.
Not really selfless then is it? These acts of kindness are actually done for 2 self-serving reasons:
- By appeasing God, they are assuring their place in Heaven alongside his throne
- If they don’t appease god, they will be thrown into the firey pits of Hell for all eternity
Religious folks such as these are held to ransom by their own self-serving interests. By doing it for “God” they hope to appease him and be forgiven of sin and saved from Damnation. There’s a motive behind their kindness that is comes first and goes before their acts of kindness. Does their motive undermine their kindness, or is kindness and the act of giving of oneself good no matter why it is done?
I was later pointed to this article called Selfish Selflessness from a blog called Philosophy, et cetera which proposes that no act of kindness is done without a certain level of selfishness, whether it be in the form of an ego boost, or to fulfill a desire to convince oneself that they are a good person. I tend to agree with this article, and therefore am suggesting that people cannot do anything without a certain amount of self-interest. This is human nature. But there’s self interest because of being human, and there’s self serving endeavours with the intended outcome to be completely selfish.
Given then, that an action cannot be made without a certain sense of self interest, does the level of self interest or kind of self interest affect the action itself? Is an action of kindness any less ‘true’ if the end aim is to help oneself, or in the case above, to appease one’s God? Do the motives of an act of kindness wither validate the act, or lessen it, depending on the motives in play?
Does the threat of retribution and the promise of salvation sour the intention of the action when doing acts of kindness?
Please discuss below, I want to know your thoughts.
In related reading:
– American Humanist Society’s Christmas Billboard at Friendly Atheist “Be Good For Goodness’ Sake”