Friday, July 27, 2007

Blog-o-mat: Continuing service

Another series of questions to the reader:

Does religion (or a particular religion, perhaps your own) mandate service to other people? How about people outside the faith? Does protecting or improving the natural environment honor such an ethic? Does knowingly harming the environment violate that ethic?

9 comments:

Pat Jenkins said...

individuals usage purposes or motives are a dificult thing to judge. as we have discussed before capitalisim is itself is for the empowered man. when greed rears its ugly head then individuals are hurt. capitalism is not evil man's character has compromised something in itself pure. the same can be said of the planets resources. it is imperative we use these resources for our own survival. and with this usage some may abuse what has been given. in order to try to keep ones "attitude" under control, govt. or authority must limit ones ability over freedom (prohibition) a slippery slope to tread on.

Sue said...

ERD, to answer your question: One of the traditions of Judaism is that in the beginning G-d created the universe as a material container into which divine light and spirit were poured; but the material container could not contain the G-d's infinite divinity, and ruptured in a great cataclysm, creating the dispersed universe of space and matter that we know. But G-d's light and divinity clung to the shattered shards of the universe. Every molecule, every bit of matter in the Universe (including living beings) carry within the spark of divinity. As Rabbi Abraham Isaac Cook (Kook) wrote in the early 20th century: "One feels the divine force coursing the pathways of existence, through all desires, all worlds, all thoughts, all nations, all creatures." (from The Lights of Penitance, the Moral Principles, Lights of Holiness, Essays, Letters and Poems). Isaac Luria taught in the 16th century it is the obligation of every Jew to repair the broken vessel of the world (tikkun olam) through raising the sparks of divinity.

Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews generally interpret tikkun olam as requiring social action to address problems of inequality, poverty, hunger, disease, mental illness, violence, war, etc. Many, including myself, also view tikkun olam as requiring action to "repair" the physical world through environmental action.

E. R. Dunhill said...

PJ,
Interesting. I didn’t have other belief systems in mind when I wrote the question, but your response takes the train of thought in an important direction- economic systems are belief systems.
I agree that capitalism is not inherently evil. It’s simply a system that can be used for good or ill. To play devil’s advocate: Do you see greed as evil? If so, how do you reconcile capitalism, a system that facilitates (and in many cases, legally requires) greed, with this moral?
As for government, “authority”, or religion putting the brakes on greed (or on the ability to act on greed), there are ways to do this that avoid the slippery-slope. Religion in this capacity is a blog unto itself, so I’ll stick to government:
Rather than using the old command-and-control or punitive regulatory models, why don’t we spend more effort internalizing the cost of negative externalities? Pay-to-pollute and cap-and-trade models make it bad business to harm the environment. Moreover, these models recognize and honor the rights of individuals.

E. R. Dunhill said...

Sue,
Your comment reminds me of a favorite quote that I only bring out on rare occasion. I hope the fact that this line was delivered by a muppet does not seem to belittle what is a very thoughtful comment on your part: “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”
I think the belief you describe is mirrored significantly in the Christian notion of the Holy Spirit, a facet of the divine within every person. I think it was the Puritans who similarly believed in The Book of Creatures, the idea that Creation is equal to scripture as a revelation of divinity.
Following both of these notions to their logical conclusions, I can’t see separating my own faith from a mandate to serve other people (which includes making a decent place for them to live) and studying, appreciating, and protecting the world (or the universe) in and of itself. From what I understand of the other Abrahamic faiths (which is admittedly little compared to what I know of Christianity), I believe this is one of our many family resemblances.

Pat Jenkins said...

erd, obviously greed is "evil" because it does cause harm to those that are the object of ones selfishness (you must check out my blog come sunday we may finally have something to agree upon) it is a stretch to claim capitlisim is a facilitator of greed though. whether at the dinner table, trick or treating or stealing something greed is the inheirent problem. thus individuals are of blame.

E. R. Dunhill said...

PJ,
I agree that greed is a fairly fundamental moral failing. However, my assertion that capitalism facilitates greed is no great stretch. Consider the central goal of capitalism: to capitalize wealth. In the case of the US and many other nominally capitalist countries, this occurs in the distribution of common assets (coal or oil on public lands, public forests, railroad rights of way, &c) to a small group of private individuals or corporations. Capitalism rewards those who are especially good at appropriating common wealth for themselves.
Likewise, if one considers some of our business laws in the US, capitalism's tendancy to facilitate greed becomes clearer: Officers in a public corporation in the US are legally required to work in their shareholders' financial best-interest. There is no requirement to work for the public good, no requirement to treat people with dignity, no requirement to conserve natural resources- just make money.
That said, capitalism in which common wealth yields common rewards, and in which negative externalities become internalized costs may be a very worthy economic system.

Pat Jenkins said...

erd, yes capatalisim allows for "large conglomorates" it also is the only system that empowers the little guy. true the objective is to make money but in order for that process to continue it is imperative knowingly or unknowingly to preserve resources for future prosperity. whether people, minerals- etc or monies themselves all must be cared for in order for continued success!!!

Nabeel said...

well all religion teach to be kind to others. let me give you an example. There was this old lady who used to throw garbage at our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).. but he never said anything to her. one day she didn't throw garbage at him (PBUH) and he inquired and found that she was sick. So our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) took care of her. And seeing his kindness, she converted to Islam.

religion should not be spread by way of sword, but it should be spread by way of actions (actions that depict what a religion teaches)

Below is a link that gives somewhat insight on various things that Quran has talked about. You should simple search for Quran and Science on Google, but be careful as many sources are not legit.

http://www.parvez-video.com/quran_facts.asp

E. R. Dunhill said...

Nabeel,
Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m curious as to what insights you might be able to provide on the roles of nature and common property in the Quran. As you point out, there is an outlandish amount of misinformation floating around on the subject. If you could recommend any excerpts from the Quran that I might consult on these subjects, I’d be very grateful. I’ll be sure to follow the link you recommended.

-erd