Philanthrôpía

The notable Greek philosopher, Plato heavily discussed philanthrôpía, which is a humanitarian effort to promote the welfare of others, and whilst overlapping with charity, charity is about donating finances to help a cause, philanthropy is about seeking the find a solution to the problem by examining the root causes. Greek poet, philosopher and playwright, Aeschylus coined the term 5th century BCE and it literally meant ‘love for humanity’. It’s about benevolence towards the whole of humanity without prejudice, which focuses on universal good will.

Aeschylus

philanthropy

A person, group, business, company, enterprise or organization that are focused on using their income, money, resources and time to contribute to the cocreating of optimum health, human rights, right to life, civil rights, ethical, fair, just and moral shared prosperity for all, stability, unity government, solidarity, cohesion, animal rights, right to housing, right to free education, right to be a parent, right to free preschool education, right to a standard of living, creation of living wage, right to internet access, economic stability, financial stability, equal rights, equal opportunities, employment rights, childrens rights, sustainable development, sustainable development goals, united partnership, multi-party working, community empowerment systems, equal distribution of income, wealth, fairness and justness across society, the country, europe and the world and contribute to the cocreation of global and national peace agreements, peace treaties, the universes truth and a fair, just and transparent system of checks and balances.” – Source

There are many notable philanthropists, who have donated time, effort and financial support to causes that aim to benefit society. Some of the ones most well known in the public eyes are Bill Gates, George Soros, John D. Rockafeller, Howard Hughes, Alfred Nobel, and Elon Musk, and between them they’ve set up countless foundations to help various causes and pumped billions of dollars into various projects to help the needy. Without question, Warren Buffet has pledged more of his fortune in donations than anyone in history and he claims that by the time he reaches death, he will have given away his multi-billion dollar fortune to several key charities and foundations, including $37 billion pledge to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation which they will receive upon his passing. His aim is to attempt to help solve educational problems, and world health and hunger problems.

Is philanthropy an ethical and moral stance, or can it be about political agenda, or a display of power? Obviously creating organisations to help people in need is in principal a good thing, but imagine a philanthropist donating a massive chunk of their fortune and then announcing that they will run in the next presidential election in the U.S.A. Many people would vote for them as they believe that they are all about the people, but what if the donations are about political gain and notoriety? If you’re worth $80 billion and you donate 10% of that, then you’ll surely help disadvantaged people, but you’ll not miss that money as you’ve still got $72 billion, yet people with see your actions as admirable. Spreading the wealth in the world we live in is more crucial than ever as the elite become richer and more powerful, whilst the majority of humanity suffer to get by on a daily basis, and we are in a crisis of inequality.

“In my view, philanthropy goes against the grain; therefore it generates a lot of hypocrisy and many paradoxes. Here are some examples: Philanthropy is supposed to be devoted to the benefit of others, but philanthropists are primarily concerned with their own benefit; philanthropy is supposed to help people, yet it often makes people dependent and turns them into objects of charity; applicants tell foundations what they want to hear, then proceed to do what the applicant wants to do.” – George Soros

My childhood upbringing

There are four years difference in age between my brother and I; he’s four years younger, and we were raised mostly by my mother as my father worked long hours that often went throughout the night so we barely saw him. My mother was brought up well by her parents and passed on her upbringing to me and my atheist brother who’s ironically called Christian. We were taught to be polite, always use our manners, and respect people, and if we disobeyed we were punished in accordance to the severity of the crime.

I once had my mouth washed out with soap and water for cursing at a woman who lived further up the road. My parents were strict, but only because they believe that humans have standards that need to be maintained. They were focused on personal hygiene and always made sure we folded clothes up and made our shoes shine, but that taught us respect. I’m quite sure I resented my parents many times, but their dedication to making their children decent human beings has paid off. Neither of us has ever been in trouble with the law, we both hold down jobs and pay our taxes.

None of this was influenced by any belief in any gods.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that my parents are atheists as I don’t think the existence of any gods has ever been a concern to them, but we were raised without any religious influence. Like most families in my neighbourhood, god wasn’t really a thing. People had crucifixes in their lounges but often it was passed down from relatives and it was of sentimental value. I went to a Church of England school, and every morning we had assembly where we’d read the Lord’s Prayer, and one day a week we’d have a religious studies class. What I remember the most about those classes was a boy who’s name eluded me, who was removed from the religious syllabus and wasn’t present during Christmas and Easter celebrations. At the time we had no idea why, but it later came to light that he was a Jehovah’s Witness and they don’t accept the Church of England’s views, so he literally became that kid; the outcast. That’s the first time where I experienced a valid argument for secularism as due to his family’s faith he was a minority during Christian teachings and celebrations.

In my early teens a mini bus used to drive around my home town on a Sunday picking up children to take to Sunday school, and in a way it was the church’s attempt to recruit to their church. They used to have a time of Bible reading then one of the teachers would hold a quiz and ask questions about passages we’d read. Every time you answered a question correctly you were awarded with a token which you could redeem at the tuck shop at the end of the class. In other words they were providing children with junk food to attempt to indoctrinate you about their god.

This is where my cynicism and scepticism was born as I saw for the first time how manipulative religion can be.

In my late teens I dated a Catholic girl who wasn’t terribly religious, but was very fearful of her parents who were very devout and both held high positions in a Catholic society. I wasn’t as outspoken by any means then and was only just beginning to understand what atheism was. At dinner one evening out with her parents, Jean, the mother asked if I believed in god. I said that I didn’t, and that my experience with religion hadn’t been positive. She quite aggressively informed me that I was ignorant of god, and if she’d known that I was a heathen she would have forbid her daughter from seeing me. As you can imagine, I didn’t date her for much longer and that encounter encouraged me to question everything.

Why do some religions need gods?

I’ve just been in a discussion with someone about pro-choice in relation to ethical dilemmas; ie: termination of a pregnancy or assisted dying. These subjects are of course controversial, but essential human rights, and it’s down to the individual to be certain that their choice is of a sound mind, and their decision is theirs and theirs alone. No one has the right to judge a person regarding what their decision about their body and life entails. Yet so many theists of the god worshipping variety seem to think that it’s their duty as servants of their god to condemn and project their resentment, because they believe that their creator is the only one to give or deny life, but this is so narrow minded. Humans deserve dignity and freedom of choice, and theists have no rights to judge. But take away theism that involves a god and things look considerably different.

As soon as a god appears in the picture, the importance of human life, or death gets sidelined as the focus becomes what their god demands from its followers. They claim their gods are morality givers, but as basic human rights go, most deity driven religions favour rights that are portrayed within the pages of their holy scripture, and other rights that aren’t covered are of little to no importance. Take the pro-life stance as a prime example. Only god has the right to take away life, so theists tend to be anti-abortion regardless of the situation and they place the priority of the unborn over the pregnant woman, yet as soon as the baby is born, they couldn’t care less, especially if the child grows up to be homosexual, or of no faith.

“I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men” – Lao Tzu

Once you start to observe nontheistic religions, you notice a pattern, and that pattern is about humans caring for humans and other sentient life, and trying to lead a virtuous existence. Jainism is an ancient religion that originated in India and their main principle is ‘the function of souls is to help one another’. Another godless religion, Buddhism, is about trying to eliminate suffering, and Śīla is about expected ethical and moral behaviour that will lead a person down the path of liberation. Taoism, which is an ancient Chinese religion mainly focuses on compassion, humility and frugality that are known as the three treasures. They attempt to create an equilibrium with Tao, which is ‘the way’, and is about living in harmony with nature and energy of the universe ‘chi’.

“Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

Most other religions that don’t observe a god work in a similar pattern of becoming the best person you can possibly be by following guidelines on how to lead an ethical, virtuous life, in harmony with nature. Yet, look at religions that observe gods and all of that tranquility vanishes. It’s about controlling the masses, and creating a theocratic way of life where disobeying laws can have severe consequences, especially in countries that adopt Sharia Law. Do religions really need gods if they’ve caused so many conflicts through history due to different interpretations of pretty much the same concept, just a different god?