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Compassion does not have to come from God

March 26, 2007

Smaller Hands help


They say that the best way to start writing is to read something you disagree with. I’ve found that to be very much true.

For instance, I read this article criticizing Sam Harris’s book called Letters to a Christian Nation. Harris argues that we don’t ne

ed religion to justify compassion. And the author disagrees. He makes the common Christian argument of “How can there be rules without a rule giver?”

” Francis Schaeffer said that secular man can only live in the lower storey (secular world) by borrowing from the upper storey (spiritual world). In other words, atheists can only talk about ethics because they are immersed in a social structure sustained by the “mythology” they reject. They borrow ethics from God and then claim that these ethics exist without a transcendent law-giving God to uphold them. What the atheists cannot explain is how they justify their ethical standards.”

Secular ethics has been around for a long time – starting from Aristole and virtue ethics, to Jermey

Bentham and utilitarianism, to Immanuel Kant and Kantism. Ethical rules can be created and enforced by humans beings upon themselves. Francis is like a big-time businessman asking why people volunteer their time and energy for free.

For me, the point of compassion comes from the idea that if we can recognize that we do not enjoy being in pain, or being humiliated or starved or killed, and we can recognize that other human beings have brains and bodies essentially like our own – that they are at their core, like us. If we can do that, they we must do our best to make sure that these other human beings can also avoid negative experiences and move towards a higher and better life.

None of this requires a God.

What does it mean to have a higher and better life? Each person is their own judge of that. I want to see our world flourish – by individual choice and collective support. How are those ethics?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. missprofe permalink
    March 31, 2007 9:45 pm

    Jason, I have to respectfully disagree somewhat with you on this one.

    The life and teachings of Jesus Christ give lots of guidance and direction as to how to be compassionate. For me, the reason that so many people lack compassion is that they don’t have much of a moral compass, and it is not guided and directed by something much higher and more powerful than themselves. For me as a Christian, so much of what is occuring today in large part is due to the lack/absence of of a well-grounded moral compass, and people feeling that they control all that occurs in their lives. It is my belief that they don’t control all in their lives. It is my belief that people need to gain more humility and realize that there is in fact something much larger and more powerful guiding their lives.

  2. Mark permalink
    April 4, 2007 8:59 pm

    Funny how I ended up at this newest blog post only intending to remind you of a promise I don’t think you kept. It was 3 years ago, I read the Da Vinci Code, but I don’t think you did your reading to keep your end of the bargain… or did you?

    Since you like to write about things you disagree with, you might find it helpful.

  3. Mark permalink
    April 30, 2007 8:06 am

    I need an address… throw me a bone.

    Also, I was thinking about this the other day. I do not believe that someone must acknowledge God in order to be compassionate, but I do believe that God is the author of compassion.

    Suppose it’s the year 1900 and I construct the first working airplane. It’s simple to fly and in giving it to you, you become a very successful early aviator. Caught up in the fame and glory of being a pioneer in the aviation world you could deny my role as the creator of your wonderful flying machine, but it would never change the fact that the airplane was my gift to you.

    So I believe that compassion is a gift from God, and that even those unwilling to accept its creator are capable of exhibiting/using it.

    • Jan permalink
      November 3, 2011 6:24 am

      That was very well put. I agree with your analogy. I am just starting to research the subject of compassion for a course question: ; Right or Wrong. Can there be a universal moral authority?
      Your thoughts really helped me because I didn’t get how non-believers would even want to show compassion. Our fallen nature always zooms in on the all important ME. But, the author of all compassion,GOD, has given gifts to all His creation. He waters the fields and plants, feeds the animals, and gives humanity the ability to love, share, help each other, and even sacrifice for others without receiving salvation through Jesus Christ.

  4. Dylan VanMeveren permalink
    February 15, 2011 11:01 am

    In a a naturalistic world without God and where evolution and natural selection rule, how can compassion have developed? Why would two healthy parents sacrifice their lives to save the life of their autistic daughter? If the strongest survive and the weak die, and if this is how everything came about, why does compassion exist? Why does love exist? Why does self sacrifice exist? How can compassion emerge from non-compassion? Since compassion does exist, God must exist because without God, no compassion can exist.

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