I’m unsure as to how unconventional my view of altruism is among Christians but, for me, when I logically attempt to derive a conclusion as to whether the phenomenon truly exists, I only ever come to one answer. I should be clear that when I talk about altruism here, I am referring to the idea of complete selflessness; an ability to ultimately and definitively put someone else’s needs above one’s own.
I think, certainly in the UK, people see Christianity as a form of life insurance, something that old people turn to in order to feel safe for their future. People have a very traditional view of what it means to be a Christian, and what church is like and see it is somewhere to go to when your mind is slowly deteriorating that gives comfort and peace in those final years. It is true that this aspect of Christianity exists, this is undeniable, but anyone who takes any of the teachings seriously will tell you that faith in the Christian God is far more complex, and far more relational than just a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Too often in this world, people are judged by their desires. It’s easy to criticise something that you can’t relate to and makes very little sense to you, particularly if it appears to damage people’s lives. Heavy smokers, sadomasochists and drug addicts are just some of the people that fall into this broad category. The majority of people in the Western world struggle to comprehend why anyone would participate in recreational drug use or sadomasochism and so the people that do are stereotyped, just as all minorities, whether that’s sexual preference, religious belief, ethnicity or anything else for that matter.
Role models are an important part of a child’s development, there’s no doubt about it, kids are influenced by the behaviour of the people in authority over them and the people they like. Traditionally, the main role model for a child is their father, for a boy, and mother, for a girl. Parents should behave how they want their children to behave in future, as they are constantly being scrutinised by their offspring, who are desperately trying to form a view of how the land lies – of what’s acceptable and what’s not. You don’t see a father swearing in front of their four-year-old son because that father doesn’t want to endorse this sort of behaviour. Equally, you’ll find that parents try to be polite in front of their children regardless of their mood. Even in adulthood, people are highly influenced by their peers – we have a natural instinct to avoid offending the people closest to us in order to maintain relationships.
There are a variety of different faiths in this world that share the opinion that there is only that faith that can save you from condemnation. Of these faiths, a proportion actively try to convert people to their own belief in order to save them from suffering. This tends to be for one of two reasons:
They believe they are commanded by the laws of their religion to spread the word and change people’s way of thinking.
They feel genuine empathy for the people around them and wish to save them out of pity for their damnation.
I don’t know about you, but I personally have no qualms about these reasons; they seem perfectly acceptable and respectable reasons to share a belief. In fact, in any other context it would be considered immoral and downright evil not to share the knowledge of something that could save one’s life. Try to remember this next time you feel like someone is “shoving a belief down your throat” – they are doing it to save you.