- ALTRUISM VS. CHARITY
Liberals, Progressives, and other statists love to throw around the term, “Altruism.” They, and probably most victims of public education, would define altruism as a concern for others, generosity, or charity. They promote it as one of the most noble of traits, and claim the lack of it in the human race is all the justification they need to establish a system that forces people do be generous or charitable. For example, this entry in the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary: “Feelings and behavior that show a desire to help other people and a lack of selfishness”.
Stunningly enough, they are wrong.
The term was coined by August Comte around 1853. It’s root is in the Latin “Alteri,” or “Alter,” meaning, “Other.” As a philosophical principle it literally means “Otherism,” and means to live for the sake of others to the exclusion of ones’ self.
I’m going to quote some Scripture here, but if you’ll bear with me, I’ll derive the same conclusions from a non-religious perspective. After all, if something is true, it should bear examination from either angle. Oh, and I will use “man” to refer to all humans, of all races and genders. It was standard usage for hundreds of years to use the masculine form when gender was not specified. It was not exclusionary to women or children. People used to be able to grasp such abstractions, and did so on a regular basis. I absolutely refuse to soil my writing with he/she’s and his/hers’. I mean no offense; it’s just the way I am. (See “Self-Interest and the Master Race” at Rebsarge@wordpress.com)
Genesis, 1:27 – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Man was created as a being with a physical body that made him separate from all others of his kind. Within that body was a rational mind, also a creation of God, and a part of being created in His image. At the core of that rational faculty is the ability to choose – free agency, free will, or whatever you wish to call it. Man’s ability to think and to decide on his course of action – how he would live his life – was the greatest gift God gave us in the beginning. Without agency, there could be no such thing as morals, or even of right and wrong. The purpose of life on this Earth is to prove, or test ourselves, to see if we will do what is necessary to return to the presence of God at the appointed time in post-mortal existence. If we are not free to use our minds to direct our actions, and to use our bodies to act in accord with our thoughts, we are not living as our Father in Heaven intended. In fact, we would be living precisely as that fallen angel, Satan, would have us live.
Now for the other perspective. If one does not believe that God created Man, it works the same way. Man evolved into a being with a physical body and a mind that functions on many levels, from sensory perception to the highest abstractions and imagination. Furthermore, Man is a being of integrated mind and body, that is, the mind and body depend on each other to sustain life. Without life, there is no question of existence, nature, or morality. Man’s life as a proper human being depends on his being able to freely exercise his mind to decide on his course of action – how he would live his life. Anything that interferes with man’s free will, whether his freedom to think or his freedom to act on his own conclusions, reduces man to some other species. As a man, he is dead until his freedom is restored. Such things as morality cannot exist if man does not live as man.
We have come through the Scriptures and by another path, and have arrived at the same point. From here on, I will refer mostly to the Scriptural model, but that doesn’t mean I dismiss or depreciate the humanistic one. Truth is truth, and it’s all a good thing. (1)
We all, male and female, have the same rational faculty and free will, and we are all in pursuit of the same thing. In Genesis, 1:28, we find the first commandment God gave to humanity: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…” However, in the Garden, their choices were limited. There was only good, so there was no possibility of choosing good or evil, so they could not be proven, and could not attain exaltation. Eve exercised her agency, though, and partook of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, setting the stage for the creation of Mankind, including us. Out in the world, evil was very much present, so Adam and Eve were able to choose between good and evil, and the whole subject of morality came into the human lexicon.
Because we are cooped up in these individual bodies and our minds are, for the most part, isolated from the minds of others, we are solely responsible for our own salvation, or lack thereof. No matter how much we love our spouses or our children, we cannot stand in their place at that last great judgement, as Tomlinson found out when he was trying to bluff his way into Hell: “O I had a love on earth,” said he, “that kissed me to my fall, And if ye would call my love to me I know she would answer all.” — “All that ye did in love forbid it shall be written fair, But now ye wait at Hell-Mouth Gate and not in Berkeley Square: Though we whistled your love from her bed to-night, I trow she would not run, For the sin ye do by two and two ye must pay for one by one!” (2)
Because we are solely responsible for our own salvation, we must rely on our own rational faculties to plot our course through life. We must do what we think is most important, that is; we must decide on our own values and then live according to them. I’ll say that again: every man and woman must decide, for themselves, what values they will serve in life. To do otherwise is to abandon that agency with which we were blessed or developed through evolution.
The Savior, when asked which commandment was the greatest, replied that loving the Lord was the greatest, and the second was just as important: “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself…” (3)
In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni taught, “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (4)
Clearly, charity is extremely important and a great virtue, but consider what Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteh me nothing.” (5)
Self-sacrifice is not charity. Charity is love. The Bible Dictionary at LDS.ORG says, “The highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection; the pure love of Christ. It is never used to denote alms or deeds of benevolence, although it may be a prompting motive.”
Charity must come from an individual’s free agency; it must be a choice. If it is not a choice, it cannot be a virtue, and all choices come from the free exercise of our rational faculties, as provided by our Creator.
Charity is not “Otherism.” Charity is not the denial of ourselves; it is recognizing ourselves in others – it is treating others as if they were ourselves. If we deny ourselves or our values, how can we see ourselves in others?
Altruism is a corruption of a great principle, but it is, in itself, an abomination. As long as people use the term in reference to genuine charity, it is merely a misuse of the word. However, if one looks at the way all socialists attempt to force altruism on us, they clearly mean it in the real sense of the word – the denial of our own agency and the immolation of ourselves.
Don’t believe it? Say to a Liberal, “I’m a very charitable person. I support those charities of which I approve, and I take care of my family when they are in need.” I guarantee that Liberal will say, “But you’re just taking care of what’s important to you! That’s not altruism! Altruism is taking care of people who don’t mean anything to you, or even of people you don’t like.”
I guarantee that, because I’ve had this very exchange dozens of times. They will deny any virtue in taking care of your own values. They say we must have statism (or whichever variant of collectivism they are espousing at the moment) in order to ensure that you take care of people they like, rather than those you like.. The only way they can establish true altruism is if they can force you to deny your own agency and values and serve their values. Altruism is the denial of the sacred trust God placed in each of us when He gave us our agency.
That’s why, when Liberals tell you the Left cares about people, you can bet your bottom dollar they mean people other than you.
II AGENCY AND GENEROSITY
Some might infer from the previous indictment of altruism that I see no value or virtue in generosity. Nothing could be further from the truth! However, the value and virtue in generosity is in its being voluntary and an act of charity, that is, an act of love for our fellow man. Unless it is done freely, it’s not generosity or charity; it’s coercion or extortion.
Love is the highest plane of function of man’s consciousness, because it arises from every lower-level, or subordinate function. It is a profoundly personal and private emotion – a response to the value we place on those we love. As such, it is a product of our agency – of our freely functioning rational faculties. It has been said that before one can say, “I love you,” one must say, “I.”
True altruism, as proclaimed by Socialists, would demand that we never utter that first person personal pronoun. It would demand that we subvert every personal value and principle to the values and principles of someone else. Altruism makes love and generosity impossible. (I’ve never encountered a Socialist of any flavor who noticed that if the denial of self is a virtue, and the promotion of self a vice, the person to whom we would surrender our values is a degenerate for having values of his own. In other words, by the principle of altruism, the most moral thing we could do would be sacrifice ourselves to degenerates. As you can see from this, when one allows a contradiction into one’s philosophy, the entire universe is sucked into a whirlpool in a cesspool of self-destruction.)
The Scriptures are explicit in instructing us to take care of our families and close associates first, and to share the excess with the poor. No one is required to sacrifice the care he gives to his family. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (6) Everyone has heard the old proverb, “Charity begins at home,” and certainly love starts there, and generosity, as one of the works of love, does likewise.
Generosity is a wonderful thing, and most people, if left to their own devices, will be generous to those they care about. The majority of people will be generous to strangers to the extent of their surplus. Now, what economic system is best at producing surplus?
Ah. That’s a topic for another day.
(1) As a matter of “station identification,” I am obliged to state that I consider the Gospel and the Scriptures to be true. As stated in the 8th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, “[I] believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; [I] also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” I went through a period early in my study when I considered the philosophies of Man to be the ultimate authority on truth. If I read something in the Scriptures, and it matched what I’d learned earlier, I accepted it as true. Today, though, I have a sure testimony of the validity of the Scriptures, and consider them to be the final arbiter of truth. When I said, “Truth is truth,” and derived the same principles by both Scriptural and non-Scriptural paths, I did not mean to infer to any degree that the philosophies of Man are equal to or “just as good” as the Scriptures.
(2) From the poem, “Tomlinson,” by Rudyard Kipling, 1892. Read the whole piece here: https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/tomlinson.html
(3) The New Testament, Matthew 22: 36-39: “36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
(4) The Book of Mormon, Moroni 7:47
(5) The New Testament, Corinthians 13:3
(6) The New Testament, 1 Timothy, 5:8