Recently, I had the pleasure of enjoying a local, annual festival near where I live. There are a lot of vendors there, local organizations, political booths, my favorite Pai Lum school was there. I got to spend it with my family and people that I love. And I had some awesome Turkish coffee.
Mixed in with all of this was a local atheist organization who is very dedicated to atheism. They were selling your typical bumper stickers that read things like “My Karma Ran Over Your Dogma” and “Hell Doesn’t Scare Me” and “I believe in life before death”.
You know, the typical atheist response to religion of any form.
(BTW, atheism is a religion, but we’ll get into that another time.)
Seeing this booth forced me to ask the question (sadly, not to them):
Should atheists be altruistic?
Since not everyone is an academic, let me quickly define altruism. Altruism is the practice of concern for the well-being of others. Now, technically the definition is longer and deals with this concern being selfless and disinterested, but let’s stick with the basic one.
Altruism is the act of doing good for those less fortunate and helping other people.
Simple enough, right?
So, let’s move on to the question at hand:
Should atheists be altruistic? Or rather: should atheists be helping other people?
Here is where this dilemma is coming from:
Atheists, as a rule, believe in the theory of evolution. They believe that we evolved from monkeys or some mammal-type life form, with the obligatory reference to us starting out as something only spotted by a microscope.
Now, the idea of evolution and Christianity has been a struggle, and I’m not going to get into that, but I’ll leave a resource at the end to help with those who are curious.
Anyway, along with the theory of evolution comes survival of the fittest. Only the strongest survive. The weak are left to fend for themselves and die.
And yet, we are constantly helping people. And we aren’t alone. It is seen everywhere in nature.
Charles Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution, stated that altruism is the biggest obstacle to evolution taking its course. He regarded it as an anomaly in nature. It goes against everything he theorized.
So, if atheists believe in the theory of evolution, and in the survival of the fittest, then should they be altruistic?
Should they go around helping other people, joining charitable organizations and donating to charities?
Shouldn’t they just let the weak suffer and starve and die so that evolution should take its course?
I hope they don’t.
I hope they listen to what is undoubtedly the voice of God in their hearts and help other people and keep doing the things that they do that bring help to those who need it.
I hope they keep being altruistic. I hope atheists are altruistic.
Because the hope is that, one day, they will recognize this urge to help as the love of God inside them and it will point them to the fact that there is a God and He wants humanity to live, love, and thrive.