With the nuclear disaster occurring in Japan, people worldwide have opened their wallets to lend a helping hand. I feel that supporting each other emotionally, materially and financially in difficult times is the most basic of things we should be doing. I know that many religious charities are contributing their help to the situation and I got to wondering about motives.
Undoubtedly, everyone donating believes it is the right thing to do. I was compelled to donate for a couple of reasons. Life on earth is seldom easy. Every day we face threats from the environment and from each other. There is always suffering happening in greater scope than we can possibly imagine. Fortunately, we have the ability to help alleviate that suffering sometimes. We can make things better for each other. I cannot offer the people of Japan a room in my home or a meal or a change of clothes but I can send money to organizations which will help meet those needs. My second motivating factor is more selfish. If I am ever in a catastrophic situation, I want to know that other people around the world will have my back. I live in a tornado-prone area which lies between two fault zones and there are two nuclear reactors within 50 miles of where I live. I know it could just as easily be me.
Some people however, are donating for different reasons. Certainly most Christians feel compelled as I do to help their fellow humans but many are donating solely because their church or house of worship has told them they should. Some might even think it will help them get through the pearly gates when their number is called. My first thought on this type of donation is that it is a meaningless act and may even be considered to be an act of cowardice. Do they think that God would not know that they were not donating out of the goodness of their hearts? Is it only ultimately out of fear of Hell that they do good deeds?
Of course, in the end, motive doesn't matter. The important thing is getting help to those who need it. It is also possible that many of these people would not donate without a mandate given by their religious institution so regardless of reason, the bottom line is that it probably helps in the long run.
So what do you think? Does religious giving diminish the meaning of good deeds? Do you think it matters?
Those interested in making a donation to help the citizens of Japan in their current crisis or any other humanitarian need should consider the following organizations:
http://donate.richarddawkins.net/donations/new?cause=nbga&country_code=US (Non-Believers Giving Aid)