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Tom Drake-Brockman

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How to change the world with compassion: a new spiritual humanist purpose for existence

The problem with secular humanism is its tendency towards nihilism. If we are to find the resolve to transform our world, we need to believe there is a purpose to this universe and that requires a divine plan. But the ones on offer by conventional religion do not cut the mustard. They fail to resolve nagging enigmas like why God created a world with so much evil; why he so often fails to respond to prayers; and how a goal centered on some mystical afterlife can only distract us from the critical problems of this world. What we need is a new spiritual paradigm that could resolve these problems.
How about this:
Imagine before the ‘big bang’ there was simply the goodness of God. But that goodness could not be fully actualized due to the absence of its opposite- just as, for example, white might not be fully appreciated without the presence of black. This inexorable necessity eventually produced the ‘big bang’, a spontaneous (more than God created) clash of opposing titanic forces. The result was a universe based on finite mortality and hence self preservation. This made self interest the dominant instinct of all the living creatures that evolved within it. Given the inexorability of this situation, God has had very limited scope to intervene without upsetting natural laws and a moral order based on free will. But when sentient life evolved, he managed to infuse some primates-humanity- with a capacity for transcending their egoism. Later, he sent a few messengers like Buddha, Christ and Mohammed to show us how to do this.

Their central message and that of prophets generally, was compassionate love- compassion for the suffering that God had unwillingly caused. God selected humanity to become his agents, giving us the task of reducing this suffering and improving the world, Far from being helpless sinners, we can see ourselves- as humanists have always insisted we should- as masters of our own destiny.

Could we transform the world with this kind of world view?

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Closing Statement from Tom Drake-Brockman

Sorry but I don't think many of the contributions have been strong so much as trite, platitudinous and narrow minded. But the issue obviously hit some raw nerves, especially with Ted lover!

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    Jan 27 2013: We could also adopt a worldview of compassion without any particular religious underpinnings. Why not?
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      Jan 28 2013: I think we have already done that Fritzie- its called secular humanism and its not working.
      The trouble is that without a spiritual dimension, compassion, with few exceptions, tends to descend into sentimentality and run out of steam. That is why evil triumphs in places like the Congo, Syria and North Korea; and that's why as Sunitha Krishnan points out in her TED talk, we do little to stop child trafficking, “the world’s largest organized crime.”
      But if compassion was elevated to being the sole purpose for our existence and the only path to our ultimate redemption, things might shift somewhat. At least its worth a try I would have thought.
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        Jan 28 2013: I don't know whether I can articulate this well, Tom, but compassion could feel like a person's biggest purpose or value even without redemption being involved. Are you saying that all values run out of steam if they are not tied to the idea of redemption or just this one?
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          Jan 28 2013: Fritzie the redemption I refer to is more about this world, which is is grave danger of destruction- than the next.
          There are no doubt many compassionate people who have no spiritual convictions- Fred Hollows comes to mind. But for most of us mere mortals, compassion is likely to take a backseat once the going gets tough. It needs to be integrated into the fabric and daily pulse of our lives.If we are going to save this world and stop the onslaught of evil, I believe that must happen.
          Why not take Christianity for example and transform it from the vacuous and increasingly irrelevant charade it has become into something that is far more consistent with the historical Jesus and worthy of him, a paragon of compassion whose real priority was the urgent needs of this world?
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        Jan 28 2013: Others will be better able to work through this with you, Tom. I have no Christian heritage or education and so know nothing about this, but many discussants here, even if they have rejected what they were once taught, will at least have some knowledge and vocabulary to go on.
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        Jan 28 2013: Tom, You do not have any idea what secular humanism is. You have taken your definitions from some Christian propaganda. Before you demean secular humanism, you should have a better understanding of what it is. You clearly have NO idea. You think that it is something that it is not.

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