Monday, December 17, 2018

Microstory 996: Secular Volunteerism

First of all, I’m not saying that religious volunteerism doesn’t do any good in the world, or that it doesn’t get results, but it’s not the way we should be doing it. There are thousands of charitable organizations in the world, and the list of ones with no religious affiliation can fit on a single, easy-to-read, webpage. I seriously have that list up right now, and even though there are some great outfits on it, it’s pathetically small. Why is secular charity better than the religious kind? Well, it’s all about intention and motivation. The reason anyone volunteers for the Salvation Army, for instance, is because they want to get to heaven. The bible teaches them that if they’re good people, God will bring them into the fold, so they can serve in the kingdom for eternity. I used this quote in my Stepwisdom series, but it’s just too good, so I have to say it again. The credited writer for eighth episode of the 2012 show Alcatraz is Robert Hull, so it is he who I credit for coming up with the line, “spirituality is for those seeking understanding. Religion is for those seeking reward.” What the bible doesn’t really get into—and I use this book as an example, because I’m more familiar with it—is altruism. It is not altruistic to help someone with the expectation that you’ll gain cosmic points for it. Just because you’re not expecting the people you’re helping to be the ones to return the favor, doesn’t mean you’re not doing it for the wrong reasons. It doesn’t matter who’s meant to reward you, you’re still doing it for the purpose of that reward. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make you a good person. To be clear, religion isn’t the only cause of egoistic charity. Those thousand dollar plates still ultimately cost hundreds of dollars, because of all the lavish decorations, in the expensive venue. You should donate money because you believe in a given cause, and want to support its efforts, and that should be enough for you. If you just want to be treated to a lovely dinner of elf food, while you schmooze with rich folk, then you’re probably also rich enough to just go out and do that. You don’t have to pretend you actually care about homeless people, or the whales, or whatever the event purports to be bolstering. In fact, I hate to break it to you, but no one believes you anyway. Always assume you’re being more transparent than you think. So I do understand that religion isn’t the only problem our society has when it comes to volunteerism and charity, but it is the most obvious and prominent. It’s great that you want to contribute, and it’s hard to argue against you, even if you’re just doing it for the recognition. I certainly can’t tell you that we would be better off if you didn’t do anything. I just want you to question, and be cognizant of, your true reasons.

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