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Does a person's belief system indicate their willingness to help others?

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rucky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 09:47 AM
Original message
Does a person's belief system indicate their willingness to help others?
Whether you're a person of devout religious faith, observational religious faith, spiritual or alternate faith, agnostic or athiest?

What are the incentives/reasons to help (or not help) others that are ingrained in each type of system?

For example, on one hand, Atheists have a motivation to help others in "this world" because that's all there is. Conversely, religious folks may see the same need for help and instead have faith that the lord is taking care of them.

But churches and religious organizations are doing all kinds of things to help people. People who go to church regularly have more opportunities to help and more messages reminding them to help others. Or is it just that religious people are more visible in helping others? And even if there are people with no internal motivation to help, they could be pressured into it. Non-organized belief systems don't have that peer-pressure aspect.

Or maybe it doesn't matter at all? You're either the helping type or you're not. Maybe one's choice in a belief system is a product of their inherent motivation to help - or provides a cover for those who do not feel obligated to help others.
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Marrah_G Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 09:48 AM
Response to Original message
1. I don't think it has anything to do with it really
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:59 AM
Response to Reply #1
14. It doesn't. One of the foulest right wing religious nuts I know
spends her two week vacation every year in Mexico, digging wells, building schools, and immunizing the kids. The rest of the year, she donates a great deal of time and money to programs to feed the hungry.

She condemned nearly all of her co workers to hell for not living up to her religion (although she left me alone on that account, wonder why). She was nasty, narrow, bigoted and humorless. She did, however, give until it hurt.

I'm an atheist with no judgmental god looking over my shoulder, but I give because of who I am. I suspect it was the same for my coworker.

I really don't think belief system has much to do with it beyond giving the reluctant a prod now and then if the preacher is a decent one and not sucking fools in with prosperity theology.
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 09:49 AM
Response to Original message
2. I have not found
the larger group identies as important of a factor, as the individual.
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TwilightGardener Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 09:49 AM
Response to Original message
3. Yes--to an extent.
Edited on Fri Dec-05-08 09:49 AM by wienerdoggie
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theoldman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 09:55 AM
Response to Original message
4. Atheists help other people because they think it is the right
thing to do. Religious people help others because they are told to do it. Some religions are more helpful than others. Everyone thinks that their religion is the most helpful.
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Common Sense Party Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 09:57 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. Ummm....no. Religious people also help others because it is the right thing to do.
Religious people are reminded frequently it is the right thing to do, true, but ultimately it is up to each individual to decide when, how, and how much to help.
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T Wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:26 AM
Response to Reply #4
12. Even more - many/most religious folks help because they fear the consequences of gawd sending them
Edited on Fri Dec-05-08 10:34 AM by T Wolf
to hell when they die.

Can't find the quote, but have recently seen one (from some right-wing preacher) that basically says that church-goers would not help others without the explicit threat from the pulpit that god will punish them for not obeying the priest, pastor, etc.

In addition, most of the "charitable work" done by churches is actually just donations to themselves for religious activities (like proselytizing), not charity in the helping others sense. that truth exposes the myth that red states and church-goers are more charitable than non-believers.
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Marrah_G Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:35 AM
Response to Reply #4
17. Wrong- my parents, especially my mother helps others because she knows no other way to be
Edited on Fri Dec-05-08 11:35 AM by Marrah_G
When she was a child in the depression, my mother was raised with 5 brothers by a single Irish mother. her mother not only supported them, but also fed the poorer families in the neighborhood. My mother continued that tradition and has spent her entire life helping others.

She is deeply Catholic but she doesn't see aiding others as something she is required to do, or that it gives her some sort of brownie points.

You can be religious AND be a good fucking person.

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patrice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 09:58 AM
Response to Original message
6. There is a reliable principle in Psychology that says something about Belief and Behavior do not
Edited on Fri Dec-05-08 10:01 AM by patrice
really have that much to do with one another.

I think churches operate more on the principle of business cartels: "We'll help this or that person or persons, because, then, our members, and any prospective members, will see that "we take care of people" and thus join our congregation and give more in the collection plate in order to have our protective shell around their lives."

Some people call this "enlightened self-interest" but I see that as being quite different from doing something because, and

ONLY

because, it is the right thing to do.
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rucky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:03 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. It the ends are the same, why do the motivations matter?
I only ask this question when it comes to charitable causes - assuming the same level time/effort/money goes to meeting the needs of its recepients.
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patrice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:28 AM
Response to Reply #7
15. Because if people are only in it, ultimately, for themselves, we will always
be limited by those/that which they perceive as " 'good' for me/us". The kinds of behaviors that a group needs, but ultimately cost the individual more than s/he gets out of it will not happen, even though, in the long run, those very behaviors may be the only thing(s) that CAN save the whole kit'n-kaboodle.
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patrice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:34 AM
Response to Reply #15
16. Which, BTW, is SUPPOSED to be the whole enchilada when it comes to Christianity. nt
Edited on Fri Dec-05-08 11:34 AM by patrice
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patrice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 01:15 PM
Response to Reply #7
26. I would like to edit my earlier post re "the kinds of behaviors that cost the individual more than
s/he gets out of it" to include the kinds of behaviors that teach the self-discipline that "pays off" later. So it's not just a question of people doing things from which they reap no recognizable benefit, which would be the extreme dimension in the spectrum of behaviors we're talking about, but it's also about being ABLE to govern one's self in a manner in which it is possible to increase the likelihood of certain defined goals, by doing or not doing something that appears to have a bad cost:benefit ratio.
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sinkingfeeling Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:03 AM
Response to Original message
8. I'm an atheist and have no problem finding opportunities to help people. I do it on a global scale.
If you must have peer-pressure to help others, then you are not a genuine 'giver' because you do so reluctantly.
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PATRICK Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:04 AM
Response to Original message
9. Actions speak louder than words
and some more communally intense groups such as Quakers are consistent in real actions and organized. The breakdown of community leaves each person to his own personal strengths whatever the creed or strong feeling supported by those creeds. If the community is strong and not poisoned by ethnic hates, great possessions or some other negativity it can be supportive of service. It can help but is no guarantee of course. Relatively, any ethical stance is better than none or raw hypocrisy, IMHO.
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chrisa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:14 AM
Response to Original message
10. I don't think it matters.
Athiests and Christians equally help people.
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:21 AM
Response to Original message
11. A place of worship is in part a gathering place where resources are pooled.
Non-church goers have other gathering places -- their family, their neighborhood, their school, their club, their wonderful online community. :)
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Bill McBlueState Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:39 AM
Response to Reply #11
18. It's hard, though
In much of the country, churches provide by far the strongest infrastructure for pooling resources. It's very hard for a nonreligious person to plug himself into this infrastructure unless he's willing to pretend to belive in god(s).
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:51 AM
Response to Reply #18
21. That's very true. I think the net is changing that, though.
It's not the same as being in the company of friends working on a project but it's a convenient and close second. :)
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surrealAmerican Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:34 AM
Response to Original message
13. Hasn't there been research done on this?
You won't get any useful data from a forum like this, only people's perceptions, which are apt to be wildly inaccurate.
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Bill McBlueState Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:41 AM
Response to Original message
19. sure, in a broad sense
"I think it's important to help others" is itself a belief. Someone who doesn't include this in his belief system will be less willing to help others.
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:50 AM
Response to Original message
20. People are just people. Some are givers, others are takers,
when you couple a group of people who want to help with an organization that actually wants to focus those efforts for the betterment of all, you have a winning combination. When those at the top of the organization just want to get a piece of the action and feed off of the desire of the group to help others you get a religion that is more interested in market share through proselytizing and political manipulation - which is largely what we have now. Most religions these days operate like corporations on a "one for you two for me" approach to social organization. Sure they help others, but that help is just another product, subject to all the market forces (which prompt the reductions and manipulations that reduce service and enhance profit) that affect any other product. The next time you see a group of people walking into a church, look closely and you will see that there is a pump-jack between each devout member's shoulder blades.

You might have a look at this fellow. He makes a lot of sense to me. (I'm new at this, I hope I posted it right)

The Authoritarians

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WillieW Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:53 AM
Response to Original message
22. No - it is in a person's DNA
Edited on Fri Dec-05-08 11:54 AM by WillieW
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MiniMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:54 AM
Response to Original message
23. A lot of it is how they were brought up
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bertman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 12:13 PM
Response to Original message
24. Based on my experience with Katrina cleanup/rebuild I say that church-affiliated groups
work very hard to help others.

But there were also many others working on the Gulf Coast who were not religious, count me in this group, but who were just trying to help those in need.

One interesting dynamic was how many of the church groups went to churches of their own denomination and used that group as a central rallying point. In many cases, churches were being rebuilt (or new churches were being built) before homes were. I'm not sure if this was the result of valuing a place of worship more or if it was to have a place to gather for more rebuilding focus--in addition to worship.

Either way, I was very impressed by the selflessness and generosity of the thousands who helped and are still helping there, whether they were from religious groups or not.

Does anyone know what the track record of religions like Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism are on helping their fellow humans?



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JimWis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 12:28 PM
Response to Original message
25. I tend to agree with your last paragraph. It doesn't matter at all.
You are either the helping type or you are not.
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