Thursday, November 5, 2020

How Pietistic Devotion-To-God Distracts People From The Necessary Work Of Kindness

"So many gods, so many creeds, 

So many paths that wind and wind, 

While just the art of being kind is all the sad world needs." 

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, poet (1850-1919)

Thomas Merton: Our job is to love others – When did you last feel ...

Organized religion enables people to feel "justified" by piety and devotion, two "practices" that can be undertaken on devotees' own terms, and in their own good time - an open invitation to the worst manifestations of self-righteousness.

Lamentably (tragically?), many (most?) devotees "use" their self-chosen, self-directed pieties and devotions to allow them to feel (without conscious questioning or conscious recognition of the fact) that the rote behaviors of devotion are so important (even essential) to their God, that their pieties and devotions transcend - and "justifiably" displace - the rudimentary need to be kind "in the trenches" of everyday life where, as C.S. Lewis puts it:  

It is often true that "the fastidiously (and obsessively) devout" cannot be kind to the poor-and-marginalized because the down-trodden are effectively invisible -and invisible "all the time." They cannot be seen through the gauze of personal devotion - through the lovely patina that automatically covers their world.

And so, devotees' misplaced (or at least preempted attention) imbues them with a worldview of complacent ignorance.

Many obsessively fixated religious fanatics believe it is transcendentally important to keep their eyes focuses "upward" (or within their own faith community), and consequently experience no real need to look "down" into the human depths to see where kindness is truly called for.

Inter-relatedly, there is no perceived need to be kind to the hardscrabble-poor and the grotesquely oppressed because those who are most in need of kindness don't even "rise to radar." 

In effect, "los de arriba" (people who are comfortably situated in life and who tend to practice "rote" religion), don't even see the people who live in greatest need, because "los de abajo" are, in effect, invisible.

And to the extent that "the hunger of others" does rise to radar, a splendid Italian proverb reminds us that "A full belly doesn't believe in hunger." 

Or as British author Walter Bagehot put it: 

"How Self-Taught Philosopher-Longshoreman Eric Hoffer Judges A Government, Or A Way Of Life"

And now - in these weird "end times" - Donald Trump, an essentially vengeful man who despises compassion - reminds us that it is not only possible to normalize cruelty, but that people have a moral obligation to be cruel. Cruelty is, after all, the right, true and patriotic thing to do.

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"Cruelty Is The Point": An Update On Donald Trump And His White "Christian" Base

The Monstrous Cruelty Of Family Separation, A Heinous "Crime Against Humanity"

"Family Separation And The Satanic Cruelty Of Most Republicans"

"More Of Trump's Cruelty"

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"The Hard, Central Truth Of Contemporary Conservatism"

"Family Separation And The Satanic Cruelty Of Most Republicans"

Truth, Justice, and Public Good: Simone Weil On Political Manipulation, The Dangers Of “For” And “Against,” And How To Save Thinking From Opinion

At bedrock, Trumpism is an attempt to re-define compassion as vice - the self-same redefinition embedded at the "heart" of Ayn Rand's philosophy.

Ayn Rand And The Church Of Satan (No Kidding)

Behind The Mask, The GOP's True Face: Ayn Rand's Ideological Acolyte Paul Ryan Promotes Her Central Belief That Altruism Is Evil

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