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The good deeds of organized religion

Doctor Anaximander

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To appease certain people, a thread devoted to positive contributions of organized religion.
 

Totenkindly

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Well, more about an individual, but still... There are folks out there with faith who are pursuing good things.

The Faith of Jimmy Carter | America Magazine

The Philanthropic Side of Jimmy Carter - American Profile


...if Graham is either the foil or forefather of current evangelical politics, then Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, is the road not taken. Today it may seem inevitable that evangelicals gravitated to the Republican Party in the 1980s; but Carter, the wealthy peanut farmer from Georgia who won the 1976 election as a Jesus-loving Democrat, complicates the story. Like the evangelical politicians who succeeded him, Carter talked about his “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” (and famously confessed to Playboy magazine, “I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times”). Yet as other evangelicals drifted to the religious right, Carter advocated universal health care, proposed cuts in military spending and denounced the tax code as “a welfare program for the rich.”

Voted out of office after his first term, Carter has dedicated himself to humanitarian work through the Carter Center, the nonpartisan human rights organization he and his wife founded in 1982. But Carter, now 93, remains adamant about the role of Christians in the political sphere. “I believe now, more than then, that Christians are called to plunge into the life of the world,” he writes in Faith: A Journey for All, “and to inject the moral and ethical values of our faith into the processes of governing.”

The goal of Faith: A Journey for All, as Carter states loftily in the Introduction, is “to explore the broader meaning of faith, its far-reaching effect on our lives, and its relationship to past, present, and future events in America and around the world.” Fortunately, the book is far less stuffy than such a description suggests. Peppered with stories from Carter’s political career and quotations from theologians, Faith is the religion-infused appeal of an elder statesman to the country he once governed. Though Carter’s evangelical faith is on full display, his appeal to readers is religiously neutral. Whether through the Bible, the Quran or the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Carter entreats his fellow citizens to draw on “these visions of improved human interrelationships...to meet the challenges of the present moment.”
 

Doctor Anaximander

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Totenkindly

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It seems that many examples will be of religious individuals rather than organizations. Those who questioned the orthodoxy of the status quo and went against popular consensus to fight injustice

I'm keeping my eye out for contributes by orgs, it's just orgs are bigger and thus also have the potential to spearhead negative things as well.

I'm not going to just wholesale dive in to say power corrupts absolutely, but basically an individual just maintains power over themselves, whereas organizations tend to draw those who want to use/apply power to accomplish goals in accordance with their ideological vales, so it is a double-edged sword ... you can do great good or great harm. Sometimes an organization can do good things while also enabling corruption among those with power in the organization. So anyway...

There's also going to be an ideological bent to this discussion, since religious people will often disagree on policy positions. In addition, some religious organizations' good deeds are also accompanied by heavy proselytization -- you kind of have to accept the preaching to receive the benefits of the good deeds. Not sure how to parse that in terms of "good deeds" per se. It's not clear whether the good deeds are motivated by the desire to proselytize or vice versa. (Are they done for their own sake, or to create a pathway by which to replicate ideology, or both?)
 

John Catstentine

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I'm keeping my eye out for contributes by orgs, it's just orgs are bigger and thus also have the potential to spearhead negative things as well.

I'm not going to just wholesale dive in to say power corrupts absolutely, but basically an individual just maintains power over themselves, whereas organizations tend to draw those who want to use/apply power to accomplish goals in accordance with their ideological vales, so it is a double-edged sword ... you can do great good or great harm. Sometimes an organization can do good things while also enabling corruption among those with power in the organization. So anyway...

There's also going to be an ideological bent to this discussion, since religious people will often disagree on policy positions. In addition, some religious organizations' good deeds are also accompanied by heavy proselytization -- you kind of have to accept the preaching to receive the benefits of the good deeds. Not sure how to parse that in terms of "good deeds" per se. It's not clear whether the good deeds are motivated by the desire to proselytize or vice versa. (Are they done for their own sake, or to create a pathway by which to replicate ideology, or both?)

that last one has always been a bamboozler for me, is it a charitible deed done for an unselfish act of mercy....or is it a contractual quid pro quo...?
 

Cor Luctis

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It seems that many examples will be of religious individuals rather than organizations. Those who questioned the orthodoxy of the status quo and went against popular consensus to fight injustice
People are willing to hold the negative actions of individuals against the religions that inspired them. Seems fair game to do the same with people who are inspired by their faith to do good.

As organizations, many of the black churches have long worked to promote voting among their congregations and communities, by registering voters and activities like "souls to the polls" where they caravan to early voting sites right after church on Sunday . . . providing their state still offers that opportunity. Many churches, including one in my community, run or support local food pantries, health clinics, and other activities that serve the poor and disadvantaged in their midst.
 

Doctor Anaximander

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food banks/pantries is a good example. I'm not ashamed to admit I've been to those in the past. Sometimes they have really good stuff that just happened to be dumped by grocery stores for being a day or two past the expiration date.
 

Totenkindly

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food banks/pantries is a good example. I'm not ashamed to admit I've been to those in the past. Sometimes they have really good stuff that just happened to be dumped by grocery stores for being a day or two past the expiration date.

Yeah, food pantries is one of the best examples. I was looking for more official pantry-style missions, but in general I think a lot of churches are involved with food redistribution. Some set up arrangements with local businesses to take their "old" food that is still good. A lot of groups (not just religious ones) do food drives as well; we have a food drive annually in the federal workplace.
 

ceecee

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10 Facts about the Langar at the Golden Temple of Amritsar

Many cities in the US have a langar provided by Sikh gurudwaras, often near a college or university and you always see these folks feeding people when there is a crisis. I always thought this was the very best application of religious values, regardless of the faith. I've been to a couple - the food is always delicious.

The Sikh faith is also one of the more sane, imo it would be helpful if more in the US and the west got a little more familiar with them and their beliefs.
 

Cor Luctis

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10 Facts about the Langar at the Golden Temple of Amritsar

Many cities in the US have a langar provided by Sikh gurudwaras, often near a college or university and you always see these folks feeding people when there is a crisis. I always thought this was the very best application of religious values, regardless of the faith. I've been to a couple - the food is always delicious.

The Sikh faith is also one of the more sane, imo it would be helpful if more in the US and the west got a little more familiar with them and their beliefs.
Indeed. People often mistake them for Muslims because of the turbans the men often wear, which has led to their being subjected to derision and even violence - not that those responses are suitable for actual Muslims.
 

EcK

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I mean it depends on the religion. Some are more 'enlightened' than others. Ultimately I find that often time people hold values that have little to do with the values of their religion but they just decide, despite evidence to the contrary, that this is what it means to be a good -insert religion-. A lot of what people think make them good -insert religion- is just , for lack of a better term, due to the westernization of their cultures. Which often leads to hilarity as the same people then profess dislike of the west most of their moral values come from.
People are weird / idiots.

In the case of Christianity the relation is a bit more complicated, of course, as Christian values coevolved with the same Western Culture(s) and values. Though in the late 20th and early 21st century these two are increasingly decorrelated. But I think it's not excessive to claim that overall, Christianity is the major religion that is closest to the modern definition of a 'good person' overall. Which is an idea worth considering, especially given that it would then follow that there would be a religion that is opposite to that. Food for thought.

But yeah, past that ultimately individuals are individual (to a varying degree) and except for some official decrees of religious leaders I don't think a good deed can be OF a religion, but rather strongly correlated to it. One exception I guess would be things done directly in the name of said religion, that if matching the precepts of said religion (holy books etc.) would have the fairest claim to be a deed 'of the religion'.

 
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