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Religion as a source of good

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The bible has many positive affirmations such as:

- Matthew 5:42:

Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

- 1 Corinthians 13:13:
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

There has been a lot of good accomplished by religious people. Many give credit to God for their work.

So is religion a source for good will and benevolence and charity upon mankind? Is it more useful than any other philosophy, such as Humanism that also may suggest benevolent behavior?

This issue can be best illustrated by the following scenario:

Let's say you are Person A, walking down the street and you come across a wallet and it's full of money. You decide to call the owner of the wallet and let them know you found the wallet -- they come and pick it up and they're very thankful and they give you a reward.

You feel good.

You did a nice thing right?

Now, here comes Person B, he finds the same wallet, but instead of calling the owner and identifying himself, he returns the wallet anonymously and refuses any reward.

Both people "do the right thing". But one person doesn't get anything specific as a reward.

Can you honestly tell me that the level of benevolence and selflessness between person A and B is the same?

This to me, is the difference between being religiously motivated and not. Religion preaches that there is a "payoff" in the end. It also teaches that if you don't do "good", there will be punishment. So it's hard to really tell if religious people are motivated to do the right thing because they really care about their fellow man, or they're merely acting in their own ultimate self-interest.

Religious people are fond of saying their faith in God gives them humility and the courage to help others. But isn't it also true that a major reason why they serve God is due to the reward and punishment system outlined in their beliefs? This is another example of the free will paradox. How can someone be selfless when they're going to be later judged on their actions? If there was no final judgment, then and only then could someone's actions be considered truly selfless.

So what if all credit is given to God? Then are religious people being truly selfless? Perhaps only if they didn't care what happens after they die. If they didn't care about being judged or where they would end up, then their servitude to their lord would be all that matters. Unfortunately, it seems one of the main reasons people believe in god is because of a need to recognize what happens after they die. So if you don't care about the afterlife, then what reason is there to believe in the first place? Would you dedicate your entire life towards walking down a road that you knew was going nowhere? There has to be something in it for you, right? So even though religion does promote many types of good behavior, it uses age-old techniques of coercion, punishment and reward to motivate its followers to conform to its set of rules. Therefore people motivated by "god" cannot be acting in a truly selfless manner.


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