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Discussion 12 on Reflections on Ethics 1
Selfless Acts

by Ryan Madgwick

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Re: Discussion 9

I too for many years have wondered if I could ever perform a selfless act.  It can prove to be very difficult. 

I am a 27 year old Englishman, with no religious beliefs. 

I have often thought to myself that performing an act of kindness due to a religious belief can in fact be a selfish act (not in all cases).  I believe this because most, if not all religions preach reward for kindness or sympathy to others, be it a place in heaven or "good things will come to those that do good onto others".

I choose not to believe in any form of after-life or higher power that can reward me.  I believe that when I die, I die, that's my lot.  Every time I help or attempt to help someone without them knowing, I lose out and they get an easier life, be it losing money, time or effort for me. 

Unfortunately, I still get that feeling of well being, like I'm one up on that person, feeling smug, almost like I'm now a better person than others, even though I've lost out in some way. 

I find it very hard to avoid these feelings and like you, feel I could never perform a selfless act.

The only really examples of selfless acts I know of all involve the person sacrificing their own life to help others.  There is no way you can gain reward once you die, especially as I don't believe in an after-life. 

So how would it be possible for me to ever perform a selfless act?  The biggest natural drive man has is to SURVIVE, not to give our lives for others that are weaker.  The stronger survive, that's how nature intended it (if that's what is believed). 

I have come to my own personal conclusion that the only way I could ever perform a selfless act, is to give my life for another without them ever knowing, be it human or animal. 

Never know, maybe one day I'll be faced with that decision, then finally I'll know once and for all, if I can truly be selfless.

I hope my thoughts may help aid or confirmed yours a little.