It seems as though the more you hail free sex, the lonelier people get. How can this be? More than 50 % of the American population now live alone, writes historian of comparative religions and author, Hanne Nabintu Herland.
There seems to be an increasing lack of moral strength and the ability to motivate individuals to empathy and solidarity. How can this lack of empathy be mended?
This is discussed in academia and worry many of the leading philosophers. At what point does individualism turn into selfishness and lack of empathy with others?
How does the socialist attitude of leaving the responsibility to the state affect the individual? Does he stop to care about others and leaves the responsibility for solidarity to the state? And at what point do the capitalist focus on individual rights override what is best for all?
We need empathy: The famous German social scientist and atheist, Jürgen Habermas addresses these critical questions: What motivates an individual to do good to others? How can we produce a society with more solidarity and empathy?
Without the ability to rise above our differences and reach out towards one another in kindness, our society will become a cold place with little or no empathy. Democracy itself depends on its population interacting in such a way that solidarity is enhanced.
In his work to establish a basis for communication between groups in society, he showed that moral questions are rational questions. They discuss how we may live the best possible life to the best possible benefit of society – and us all.
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For decades, he emphasized the need for social bonds and mutual respect between groups for justice to be served. If not, one group may easily dominate the power structure and discriminate the rest. In such a society, tyranny or authoritarianism will prevail and only one perspective on reality will be accepted: The view of the ruling elite.
At one point, Habermas – himself an atheist – dramatically changed his view on the role of traditional religion, stating that his previous assumption of its irrelevance in secular nations was wrong.
In his later years – as illustrated during his Holberg Price Award speech in Norway – he has spoken of the need for a new respect for the Christian, European ethics.
This has dumbfounded many since Habermas, for decades, was one of the architects of European atheist secularism. He actually changed his view on the role of traditional Christian ethics.
The topic of Habermas’ change is a complete taboo to speak of in the New Left circles that dominate many universities today. It has hardly been addressed, and very little in the media.
How can Europe’s maybe most famous atheist and social scientist suddenly acknowledge traditional, religious ethics? What motivated him to change his mind?
Habermas explains his view in the Holberg Prize speech by stating that there are weaknesses and shortcomings in modern science’s inability to comprehend the equally important metaphysical dimension of human relations.
We need empathy: What can motivate us to do good to others? Traditional science distinguishes sharply between faith and empirically determined knowledge; it takes a naturalistic position that devalues all categories of knowledge that are not based on empiricism and causal explanation.
This singular emphasis on physical science makes it difficult for us to understand the complexity of the human spirit, he says.
In Europe: The Faltering Project, he points out that the current secular – or atheist – moral theory pays a high price for excluding the very ethics that had the ability to better motivate the individual to do good to others. He reminds us that genuinely active traditions often remain hidden in the culture. Only in times of upheaval, when these virtues are in danger of disappearing, will their true greatness become apparent.
Then Pope Benedict XVI seems to concur. In Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, he states that after years of emphasis on scientific and technological progress, Western culture now suffers from a lack of emphasis on moral energy. He proclaims it as the greatest threat.
Without solidarity and justice as moral ideals, selfishness becomes socially legitimized and accepted.
Democracy itself depends on citizen solidarity and empathy in order to avoid becoming the perfect tyranny of the mob – and their rulers.
Social Darwinism, paired with the idea of scientific progress, opens society up for an ideology that Benedict XVI calls “Secular Messianism.” He points out that the Liberal progressive zealous political vision is for endless social change. As if change always is for the better.
The assumption is that revolution or its more subtle partner, reform, will lead to the Marxist goal of peace on earth. It implies a belief in the inherent goodness of man, and that mankind will prove its ability to win the battle of history without the metaphysical realm and God.
Marxism advocates for a view of humanity that considers man as innately good. As traditional religion in this view is considered to be the opium of the people, the existence of a spiritual dimension is denied. The only realm that exists to a true Marxist is the physical, the tangible, touchable, the material dimension.
Needless to say, the aim then becomes not listen to the call for religious morality and a focus on the metaphysical dimension. If something goes wrong, it is society and not the individual who is to be blamed. The individual is corrupted since the class struggle is not completed, not because there is evil in his own heart that he must battle.
We need empathy: In short, the Marxist solutions to the problems in this world lay in creating the perfect materialistic, non-religious utopian society in which all classes are equal and all races live together in peace. Without traditional religion and without any belief in God, the Creator.
The implication of such a materialistic view which only accepts the existence of the physical dimension, is that the “state” is given the responsibility to solve problems. It may be argued that the state is to take the role that God has in traditional societies: In the utopian Marxist society, the state must motivate the people to do good towards one another.
It may be argued that the secular culture of godlessness has oppressed an important part of being human: consciousness of God and recognition of the transcendental.
Nobel Peace Prize winner, His Holiness the Dalai Lama highlights the fact that economic and technological progress is necessary but says that moral values must follow technological development.
A society where materialism and spiritual development goes hand in hand is a society that bears a promise for the future. Dalai Lama calls this the key to our future.
Christian Orthodoxy addresses the same issue: Since man is body, soul and spirit, the spiritual dimension is part of quite another reality than the physical. These are two different dimensions of reality.
Yet, man consists of both and operates in both, whether he is aware of it or not. “Because man has a rational soul and a spiritual intellect, he possesses the power of self-determination and of moral freedoms, the sense of good and evil and the ability to choose between them,” writes Bishop Kallistos Ware in The Orthodox Way.
If the metaphysical realm exists and evil is real, the world will only become an oasis of peace when incorporating the defense of God against evil.
And his recipe is for man to love the Creator and love his fellow human beings. The remedy for the current malaise is love, according to Christianity.
Humanity remains divided between good and evil and needs spiritual guidance in order to face evil and the chaos of existence properly. Without wisdom, there will be no justice.
And without justice between groups, no peace. From this perspective, it may be argued that the irrational element in society is the atheist push for keeping religion outside the public sphere. Religion and its ethics provide the very remedy against chaos, which is love.
There is a normative call for it that you cannot miss when reading, for example, the words of Jesus Christ. He sums up his message with these few words: “Love thy God and love thy neighbor. Do unto others what you would have wanted them to do unto you.”