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.
- I, Agnostic (cityofchapin.wordpress.com)
- Agnostics Or Apistics? (camelswithhammers.com)
- The fear of irrelevancy (geoffarnold.com)
- What should I ask an Atheist? (friendlyatheist.com)
9 thoughts on “The Agnostic Who Believed in Charity”
I am not the judge of all creation. But I am a Christian. I’m not a Christian because I made myself that. And I don’t claim that title just because I like the beliefs and words of Jesus. Nor do I claim that title because someone in my family said I should. Heck, I don’t even claim that title because I attend a certain gathering of people in a certain building on a certain day. Jesus Himself has made me a Christian and is personally teaching me the difference between what is holy and what is not.
The difference between Christians doing good deeds and those of any other “religion” (of which is an agnostic, for he has made up his mind what he thinks regarding God. And isn’t that what religion is?) is in the glory of the deed. In all things we give all our good things to the glory of Jesus. We do not accept praise for ourselves and we do not think better of ourselves because we do good things. No one of us men are good. It is written “All men are liars”. All “good” things belong to Jesus, and that to the Glory of the Father in Heaven.
I don’t desire to place anyone either in or out of His approval. But you should be aware of the motivating force behind all truly Christian deeds.
By His Grace.
Actually, I find myself as an Agnostic because I haven’t really made up my mind about god – Christian or otherwise. I accept a possibility, but the improbability keeps me from making any arguments for or against it. In other words, it’s all good so why muck things up with talk of higher powers and half-deities?
And I understand what you’re saying when you labeled yourself a Christian – though, I would have labeled you a Christ Follower (which isn’t essentially the same thing). And the reason I’ll be prone to label you that is because you hold what I believe to be the true essentials of Christian doctrine, which so many people these days have muddied up with their political agendas and irrationality. And I don’t deny anyone the teachings of Jesus – as Buddhist as they were – because it essentially makes some people do good on earth.
And while I have full respect for your insight on charity, my good deeds belong to me and me alone. You might see that all men are liars, and we very much are, but we’re also both the pinnacle of good and evil. It’s like my Catholic upbringing taught me, our hearts is home to both God and Devil; it’s up to us who we allow in. I’m a creature of desire and reason. My desires aren’t aimed for personal gratification 100% of the time, but I do take great pleasure in helping others. And my reasoning for it is that people are essentially good.
I guess what I’m saying here is that just because you and a select few don’t things selfishly – such as to sneak your way into the metaphysical paradise – doesn’t mean all Christians, etc., believe that. And pegging charity and good will towards men as a purely a Christian doctrine is both insulting towards other religions and just plain wrong for those who don’t hold one.
As for insulting “other religions”: Jesus’ claims about who He is become a natural insult to other religions. His people don’t need to make claims of their own that anything other than Jesus is false. Jesus made that claim Himself. “No one comes to the Father but through Me”. (I use caps as a personal salute to He who I’m learning to love) That’s why Christians are so very often hated by the world. You won’t see people of other religions being singled out like Christians. We stand on strong and singular ground regarding God.
By His Grace.
I see Muslims singled out constantly, but yeah. You guys get the lime light due to intolerance and bigotry – not that you are either of these things. The problem I have with whole Jesus thing is history. We weren’t there. And if you look closely at his “Sermon on the Mount” passages, you’ll notice – if you’ve studied other religions, that is – the correlation with that of Buddhist doctrine. Now I don’t want to “test” your faith, or be the “devil” in your life – we all have our temptations on doing so, but I don’t know you well enough to play the part – but several historical texts – Buddhist, mostly – cite that there was one student who was named Iesus. Now historians have also stated that there was a possibility that the holy family traveled east, into the realms of Buddhists and Hindu territories – though, unlike most religions, to be Hindu one must be born into it (at least that’s what I recall). My bottom line is, Christian faith and Buddhist faith are quite similar when it comes to the doctrine. The only difference is, Christianity threw in the Judeo creator. So, stating, once again, that Jesus is the only path is misleading. Clearly, his teachings were inspired by a man who was born 500 years before him.
But again, to each his own.
I don’t know anything about the buddhist faith. But I do know quite a few letters of Christianity. I will tell you something, it’s kind of a secret, that most people don’t readily believe. 1. Jesus is the One who created all that is. Jesus was with the Father before anything was created. What we see in Jesus is God come to earth to sacrifice Himself on our behalf, he did what we could never do. 2. By this Jesus, I have a clean conscience ( I mean that litterally). Oh, I’ve got horrible stuff in my past. But I sleep very well. 3. I hear Him. It’s not words as much as it is thought patterns or ummmm pictures of what is and what should be in my walk with Him.
In all, I can testify with all confidence that Jesus is alive and at the Father in Heaven’s right hand.
I know you have trouble with a whole lot of what I just said. But if I didn’t say it, would I be true to He who rescued me from a horrible life and certain death come the judgment day?
by His Grace.
I wonder, what’s your take on the one god concept? That is to say, that all religions are working up the same mountain to God – who has been known by different names in the past. It’s a concept that even I find a little absurd, but then again, I find a lot of religious ideals absurd. If Jesus and God are one, wouldn’t it not be then that he could have embodied his – ummmm – spirit(?) toward other lands, taking other forms – forms which only they would understand? Perhaps Jesus was the form of God that a selected few could understand and Siddhartha was a form only another group would understand and accept. It’s just a theory, but I’d like to have some other insight to it other than my own. Because, like I stated, even I find it a little absurd.
You do my heart good because of your honesty. I’m sincerely impressed. And I’m enjoying this conversation greatly. Unfortunately, I have to go to work now. I get to go on vacation starting tomorrow and won’t be back for a week. I’ll try to check in in the mean time.
Again, thank you for your personal integrity. You seem to be one who is not ashamed or defensive about who he is. Not to give you a homework assignment. But there are over 150 posts I’ve been blessed to write. Perhaps you will find some clues there as well.
By His Grace.
I’ve been reading your posts since you first commented. While I disagree with some of your views, you are superb in your writing. Dare I say, convincing? Well, have a good one. I hope all goes well with you.