Posts tagged ‘life’
Selflessness or altruism means putting the interests of others above yourself. Just as “selfishness” has negative connotations in society of self-interest at the expense of others, “altruism” is often thought of as kind or generous acts for others. This view is wrong. It is wrong because the originator of the term himself, Auguste Comte, meant it to mean precisely what it implies: acting for the sake of others with no thought to oneself.
It is this true original definition of altruism that I am using here, and I will use altruism and selflessness interchangeably.
Selflessness is irrational. It is irrational because it demands that the beneficiary of your actions be others. Does it suggest who these others should be? That is a decision an individual would make for himself based on his personal values. But, since altruism dictates that we should hold our interests or values in no regard when acting, altruism actually states that the personal value of the beneficiary be irrelevant to our action! By this “logic” not only would giving money to a drug-dealing rapist be just as moral as giving money to an orphanage, it would be more moral!
Why is that? It comes down to personal values. To suggest that some people are more worthy than others to benefit from acts of generosity implies that one has made a value judgment oneself in such matters based on a personal evaluation of worth…
I don’t believe in an afterlife, so every second of my time on earth is precious. The years remaining in my life provide the only chance I will have to fulfill my potential and make a difference. The people I love are to be cherished in the here and now for there will be no reunions in another realm. The suffering and pain on earth must be alleviated today because there is no happy ever after in the sky. Beauty is to be admired and appreciated now because tomorrow it will fade away. I must make meaning in life every day, because there is no-one providing a purpose for me to fulfill.
When I was a Christian, I wanted to believe that God endowed the universe with purpose and my personal life with meaning. I spent time every day reading the Bible to discover God’s purpose in the universe. I spent time praying every day to discover God’s will for my individual life. I was not alone in my search. Similar beliefs were held by most people for much of history and went largely unchallenged until nineteenth century philosophers began to consider the possibility that the universe and human life had no built-in meaning. For centuries science had been moving humanity further away from its prized position at the center of the universe.
After Galileo discovered that the Earth is not the center of the Solar System and Darwin revealed that humans had evolved from earlier primate ancestors, it was no longer possible to consider that humanity deserved any special place of honor…
A Guest Commentary
The faithful often try to tell us that without god the world would collapse into chaos. They claim that god provided us with laws or commandments to live by and that societies have base their laws on these commandments. This strikes me as a rather arrogant assumption that overlooks some very basic historical facts.
In fact, the relationship probably works the other way around. Religion took its laws from those that already existed. For example, let’s look at the ten commandments. The claim is that they brought rules to a world without any. The implication is that people ran around killing, stealing, and raping with impunity before them. However, codes of law had been written long before the alleged burning into stone of the ten commandments. For example, the Code of Hammurabi was written a thousand year’s before, and there were others before that.
One aspect about Hammurabi’s code that may seem familiar from the first testament is the eye for an eye justice it espoused. Fire and brimstone Christians will recognize much of what they believe and stand for in it. So, rather than codes of law being based on the ten commandments, it seems that the ten commandments were based on these codes of law…