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CMS: On Charity
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In this episode:

"If you haven't got charity in your heart, you've got the worst kind of heart trouble." - Bob Hope


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49:24 minutes (23.72 MB)
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The people, who in my opinion, were the most confused about today's topic were the Puritans and any other immediate descendants of John Calvin. 

Because, according to them, you really couldn't do anything to make God like you any more or any less. Grace was irresistible. Salvation was unconditional. So theoretically, you could be a total reprobate and still have your soul preserved in heavenly bliss, while the guy down the street, a veritable Ned Flanders of virtue, got nothing.

But that theology didn't really set people free. It made them anxious. I mean, probably you should act like you're saved, just so people don't go around saying, based on your cruddy behavior, that you couldn't possibly be saved. There were was kind of a neurotic notion of good works.

All of us struggle with the question of how to be righteous, whether we think God is watching or not.

You can join the conversation, e-mail colin@wnpr.org or leave your comments on today's show below.



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Listener E-mail from Robin

I don't know how representative my complaints are, but I felt this show did not do justice to the atheist point of view.
1.   Why is the overall topic of charity related to religion at all?  
This show was really about charity within a religious framework, but there's all kinds of interesting stuff to say about charity completely unrelated to faith and it's wacky step-cousin "spirituality".
2.   It's usually annoying when religious people discuss atheism and
agnosticism, and you and your guests were no exception.  There are important differences between atheism, agnosticism, and not following an organized religion.  Neither atheism nor agnosticism should be conflated with 'belief in some sort of higher power', as your guest implied. 
Don't derive universal generalizations from what believers experience -- it's different.  And the saccharine tone of voice most religious practitioners adopt when discussing non-believers, as if they're describing that nice down syndrome neighbor kid, makes my ears bleed.
3.   That said, I'm VERY disgusted with my fellow non-believers. 
According to what I've read, religious people give far more, on average, to charities than do non-religious people.  (I wonder, though, how the groups would compare if researchers corrected for donations to churches, which go primarily to church overhead.)  I'm not sure how we can get everyone to be more attentive to others, and would be interested in hearing ideas on this.  It's kind of like the public radio pledge problem -- almost everyone could afford to give a little, they'd never even miss it, but if you added it all up it would alleviate so much suffering.

I'm not one of those resentful atheist pot-stirrers like Christopher Hitchens.  I don't think religion has caused all the world's evil -- like everything else human, it's been evil and benevolent and mostly kind of stupid.  But it is frustrating never to hear atheism and agnosticism represented reasonably in any public discussions, and I challenge you to make your show an exception.

Thanks for the great show!

Listener E-mail from Jo

All ideas that humans have are constructs by human beings-including the construct of god. And if we want to construct a moral code, we don’t need a deity to head it, or write it except as a surrogate for a perfect human parent. The deity at the head, although perceived as supporting some very noble behavior, is also the reason people use to engage in the most brutish of behavior. Either way, if we don’t do what we do under the guise of being directed by a deity, we have a greater chance of actually confronting and knowing ourselves more fully, as well as taking responsibility for ourselves. I certainly don’t need a fictitious parent, to tell me what is right and wrong, and I don’t need to display my good deeds, as such, to others as a sign of my faithfulness to that parent. It pains me to hear of really thoughtful, intelligent people, holding on to the wish to be close to the perfect parent. This keeps so many of us at an immature development, and allows so many of us to act in truly awful ways. When the moderates stop believing, then the zealots will appear to be so much more unacceptable to the majority of us, and then perhaps we can take steps to either help them or corral them so that they can’t wreak the havoc they tend to do.

Listener E-mail from Anonymous

You've done an excellent job of describing the "mitzvah" concept - literally meaning "commandment" (as in Bar- Bat-Mitzvah - someone who becomes a son or daughter of the commandments), but in the vernacular - "a good deed".
On Maimonides... you're also right about the hierarchy of charity he describes -- where the highest form of charity is getting someone a job or putting them to work (getting them to be self-sufficient) in some way - an idea of charity that isn't universal -- but there's a connection with how Volunteers In Psychotherapy works.
Also, the word for charity - "Tzedakah" means justice, literally.
Thanks for a great show!

Listener E-mail from Jac

Doing “good works” is ultimately good for self. 


The Golden Rule, universal to all regions, basically says that you should treat others as you would want to be treated.  In some way, that implies that you will also be treated well by “others”.  I’m not sure if it’s selfish really, but I think that we all want to survive and the best way to survive is to ensure that we survive as a society.  So, treating others as you would want to be treated is embraced by lots of groups because it leads to a healthy society.  I think doing good works is an innate desire aside from religion. On an individual level, we are generally compassionate.  No matter what the religion, not many could walk away from an abandoned, crying baby.  The closer we are to the individual in need, the less likely we are to walk away, right. 


Organized religion provides our natural desire to help others to be put into action more easily and I think that’s one of the best parts of religion.



Listener E-mail from Brendan

I’m not a believer.  However, I do think that most people, myself included, do good works simply because it feels good.  I don’t believe in pure altruism.  The emotional benefit or the expected benefit of preserving one’s sole is, in my opinon, the MOST central reason that people do altruistic works. 

Listener E-mail from Bernie

I would suggest that the best reason to give and not just to those you judge in need is because God Loves everyone and doing the same which is related to giving, is a way to get close to God.