Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do Unto Others

Gus Van Horn points out the spiritual bankruptcy of Anglican priest Father Tim Jones, who recently encouraged desperate parishioners to shoplift rather than resort to burglary, prostitution, or robbery:
The inexorable logic of Father Jones's altruism thus blinds him to achievers as human beings. If you are able, particularly is you are "big" (i.e., successful), you are fair game to legions of people down on their luck. Perhaps, if you're driven out of business as a result, he'll spare you some sympathy and tell you whose pocket you can pick.
As Gus points out, the altruist loves misery. And the greater one's misery--or desperation--the greater one's claim on the property of others.

Altruism holds that the standard of morality is self-sacrificial service to others. The standard of virtue is not the production of values, but their renunciation. The altruist believes that those who refuse self-abnegation are "selfish", and one's own personable happiness is achievable only at the expense of others.

Altruism encourages misery by positing the false alternative of self-sacrifice or the sacrifice of others. Or, to put it in Christian parlance: Do unto others before they do unto you. One should pursue his own misery, or get into the trenches and make others miserable.

The inevitable result of altruism is the belief that the rights of individuals are necessarily in conflict. Either we all cooperatively sacrifice for some alleged "common good", or we plunge ourselves into civil warfare in which we each seek to stab one another in the back. The idea that individuals can cooperatively co-exist without sacrifice on the part of anyone is unimaginable to the altruist. Or, as Father Jones puts it:
The life of the poor in modern Britain is a constant struggle, a minefield of competing opportunities, competing responsibilities, obligations and requirements, a constant effort to achieve the impossible.
Jones inadvertently exposes the dirty secret of altruism: It is a standard that is impossible to consistently achieve--if one wishes to remain alive. Altruism demands the sacrifice of one's values, while life requires the achievement of values. To the altruist life is a minefield in which individuals must seek to somehow balance the "obligations" of sacrifice and the requirements of human life, in which one seeks "rewards" beyond the grave or happiness on earth. But no such balance is possible.

To further demonstrate the hypocrisy of his ethics, Jones told his congregation that shoplifting does not break the commandment against stealing:
[I]t is permissible for those who are in desperate situations to take food that they might not starve.
And then he acknowledged that shoplifting is in fact stealing:

I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither.

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