If you mean by a “Christian” a man who loves his neighbor, who has wide sympathy with suffering, and who ardently desires a world freed from the cruelties and abominations which at present disfigure it, then, certainly, you will be justified in calling me a Christian. And, in this sense, I think you will find more “Christians” among agnostics than among the orthodox.
The other day, I tweeted something that came to mind. This past weekend, outside of Barnes and Noble, I was hit up by a homeless family. Now I’ve seen this family several times already, and I’ve given them money most of the time – sometimes, I only have my card on me. Despite their situation – meaning, whether they’re actually going to use the money I give them for food or if they’re going to spend it on booze – I do my best to give as much as possible. And like I tell people, I judge the amount I hand out based on the story they tell me. This is only a half joke.
It always gets me, however, when they end the “transaction” with “Que dios de la bendiga – God bless you.” My kindness isn’t god motivated. I don’t think it ever was, or ever will be. There isn’t a Christian thought that passes my head when I decide to give someone down on his luck a couple of bucks – I usually stop at $5. And what they do with the money is their business, like I said. It’s their guilty conscience they’ll have to deal with later for feeding addictions and not feeding themselves.
People who don’t know me, however, don’t buy this. And sometimes I joke about it, as well. Everyone thinks I give because there is some doubt in me about the existence of a higher power. And I’d be lying if I denied this. But, helping others isn’t exclusively Christian:
Apart from other objections to it, it seems rude to Jews, Buddhists, Mohammedans, and other non-Christians, who, so far as history shows, have been at least as apt as Christians to practice the virtues which some modern Christians arrogantly claim as distinctive as their own religion.
In other words, showing kindness to your neighbor and helping the needy isn’t something invented in the minds of those who followed Christ, but has always existed. I don’t help people because some omnipotent watches down on me, spreading his benevolence through me, but because it essentially makes me feel better about my life.
As much as it may sound foreign to believers’ ears, Atheists and Agnostics are probably more charitable towards others than those who proclaim it’s a trait of their religion. And we’re all, essentially, aiming for the same thing. Although, Atheists and Agnostics are more incline to experience a “heaven” on earth idea, than one afterward.
After I gave that family the three dollars I had in my wallet, Jyg and I went home. On the drive, she asked me if it was the same family she’d seen before. I mentioned it probably was. She, as did I, remembered the child being just a baby when they first showed up in McAllen. By the looks of the child, that was probably three years ago.
“Did he speak in English?”
“No,” I said. “He said, ‘May god bless you.'” After a moment’s pause, “It bugs me when they say that. A simple thank you would suffice. Then again, if I’m wrong about this whole deal, I might just slip by St. Peter.”
Once again, the text quoted in this post is from “What is an Agnostic?” by Bertrand Russell, which you can read here.