Compassion does not have to come from God

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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 need 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?

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