In terms of substance, Dawkin's amoral altruism is rooted in an eminently self-serving ethos. It showcases a magnanimity grounded on feelings rather than a transcendent absolute. The shallow brand of compassion that it produces seeks to satiate a sense of self-fulfillment through service to others. That is, since it assumes that there is no moral law-giver to whom we are accountable and from whom we derive moral concepts like good and evil, which ultimately steer us toward self-renunciation for the sake of the less fortunate, we are left with helping others simply because it makes us feel good about ourselves. This kind of charity is defined as that which springs from a desire to meet a vague sense of obligations to help others, and it is fueled by the expectation of reciprocity and a self-congratulatory reminder that we are, after all, rather decent human beings.This is a laughable argument, of course, and easily turned on its head -- religious charity is just an attempt to buy off the same malicious God who cast this suffering upon us all in the first place, while atheist charity, insofar as it expects no quid-pro-quo reward for its good deeds in some future life, is in fact the more purely charitable. But both of these arguments are the stuff of overindulgent Freshman late-night dormitory discussions -- they're hardly arguments worthy of an institution that seeks to claim some mantle of thoughtful conservatism. Which is sad, really.
Real charity instead is anchored on the injunction furnished by the millennia-tested Judeo-Christian tradition, which affirms that every benevolent act towards a fellow human being in need is a direct offering towards our creator -- a reminder that charity begins with a surrender of the self and a concern for the other. Moreover, this tradition does not cast all suffering as intrinsically evil, but it recognizes that in many instances, evil does result in much of the suffering we experience in the world. But also, in a deeper sense, suffering can ultimately have a redemptive purpose.
Posted by Steve S at 9:46 PM
The American Thinker is bemused by Non-Believers Giving Aid, the Dawkins-backed charitable organization: