March 18, 2006

Are we flawed?

I came across this particular view on a board that I visit that had a really wrong resonance. This guy said that he was a man of faith (doesn’t matter which faith to the subject at hand :p) but that the believed that humanity was utterly and irredeemably flawed and that the only way they can find salvation is by appealing to God. Basically, he was saying that humanity finds salvation in spite of themselves through their faith in God, that God uplifts them. He went on to say that we as humans are incapable of any "good deeds" because all our deeds (even the good ones) are done out of selfish motivations and that a truly selfless act was impossible.

Now I believe in God and consider myself a man of faith. And don’t ask me "Which God?" since that’s going to lead to a whole different discussion :p My sister-in-law once asked me that and I said "There is only one God!". She looked at me for a moment, nodded and laughed. I don’t know if she got it in the same sense I meant it or if she thought that I meant it in the Islamic sense. Didn’t really matter actually since religion, as far as I’m concerned, is a personal thing. Each of us should be free to follow our beliefs and our path to God. We might take different paths but I believe that we all end up at the same destination.

But I digress. The opinion stated on the bulletin board certainly is not the view of God (or humanity) that I have. I believe that one of the greatest gifts (and curses) that God gave us is free will. We have a choice in our actions. We can decide to do something good for any reason, we can decide not to act or we can do something bad. As far as I am concerned, the motivation (whether it is selfish or not) does not detract from a good deed. I believe that God gave us the opportunity to save ourselves – or not. I have no illusions about the goodness of humanity generally but at the same time, I have great faith in the capacity in humanity for goodness (or even greatness) in specific cases. I know of many, many people who have gone out of their way to do something nice, friendly, helpful or kind in my own case. They had nothing to gain from that action and I certainly would not have called it selfish in their part.

On the other hand, I am not sure we understand selfless correctly. What exactly is selfless? Doesn’t it mean that there is an absence of self? So if you are to do something selflessly, are we saying that we did it without any selfish motivation or that there was nothing of our self involved in the action? If the former, I agree with the usage of "selfless", if the latter, then I am afraid no human is capable of a selfless act. Because if there was no self, then there is no "I".

In the final analysis, my personal belief is that we find our own salvation and our path to God. But then again, as I’ve said before, religion (and the path we take in life) are intensely personal choices. So YMMV :)

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