Monday, December 31, 2007

The Virtue of Humility

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Why is humility a virtue? Why is it right to place the interests of others above oneself? Why is it virtuous for others to help you, but selfish for you to help yourself?

The first task is to actually define ones terms so we have a common understanding of what we are talking about. Part of the reason why moral confusion and conflicts in people's lives is that they lack the clarity in thinking required to resolve their conflicts. Poor definition of terms plays a big part in this confusion. The terms I would like to define are:

1. Selfishness: Most dictionaries consider selfishness as an interest primarily with oneself. No conflict there. But here is where the moral confusion arises because: Acting in one’s self interest need not be at the expense of others. Acting in one’s self interest might actually mean serving others. The people we help are not all of the same standing. Everyone has a hierarchy of values. There are people we hate, strangers, acquaintances, friends, family, lovers, and they all occupy some ranking in terms of personal importance. If we were to renounce our values, we would seek to place lovers at the top and we would treat all these people the same.
2. Humility: Humility requires one to attach less importance to oneself. Humility thus cannot be judged out of context. In what sense can we be said to have a heightened sense of importance. We can be overconfident in our capacity to deal with events, or in our relationships with events. Is that not the proper sense that comes from success, and when we fail, we adjust. What justification is there for thinking less of oneself unless it is considered wrong to attach any value to one's life as a moral code.

The reality is that people cannot reject selfishness or pride. Consider the paster that argues that we should believe in God. How can a humble soul with a diminished sense of his own importance get up and preach with such righteousness and certainty. The answer they would argue is that they are agents of God, that God is acting through them. If that is the case, why are they so imperfect by any moral standard. If they are not entitled to the reward of pride, what possible motive can they have for acting. Are they machines? If so they are outside the field of humanity or morality.

The reality is that religious values are not consistent with human nature - they are the antithesis of it. These 'moral' principles were in fact conceived by men to control men. The history of religious tenets suggest as much. Many of the ideas that are expressed in the Bible are not even original, rather they were developed over time. The implication is the Bible was merely a synthesis of pre-existing ideas that was packaged for political purposes by Roman scholars intent on controlling the Israelites through the church 'establishment'. Recognising the practicality of the strategy, the Church under the support of government, spread the same philosophy to other territories. Today the Church still has the distinction of being a tax free entity.
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Attention all atheists!!
In fact anyone who has had an interesting encounter with a Christian which involved manipulation, deception or blatant rationalisation. This is research or material for a forthcoming book. I am not suggesting that all Christians are criminals, dangerous or threats to society, but I am suggesting that Christianity is a basis for moral inefficacy. There is a reason why Christian nations are always at war. There is a reason why former Christians (or children of Christians) have a tendency to drift into cults and extreme religious groups. Thank you for any life experiences you can recall. ----------------------------------------------- Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com