Commandment of Love - Unethical? (And a Request for Assistance)
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23-02-2011, 11:43 AM
Commandment of Love - Unethical? (And a Request for Assistance)
Part 1 - The Question

In John 13:34-35, Jesus gives the commandment to "love one another." I believe in another instance he names this as the greatest commandment, and Christians often look to this as the noblest of words.

But is the commandment of love of others an ethical commandment?

Certainly on the surface it sounds nice, but is it ethical to command others to feel an emotion towards everyone - without it being the least bit earned? Is it even possible? Obviously things like empathy and consideration are possible (and usually beneficial) but is love? Is it any more ethical to command others to love as it would be to command them to hate? At its core, is it any different?
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Part 2 - Your Assistance Requested

This all was prompted from a brief facebook exchange.

Someone posted a youtube link in which some guy talked about the commandment to love others and whatnot. The link is - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LF7nJ3LKr...r_embedded Careful if you decide to watch it, the guy has the same accent as Ray Comfort. The comment above the link was "I'm not very good at this at all." The implication was remorse or guilt about not being good at loving others.

My response: "I don't see how a mandatory command to love others is a good or moral thing. Love of others (specifically non family) comes from simple empathy. While it can be a very good thing to try to encourage empathy, and try to cultivate it, I'm not going to love others just because someone (anyone) tells me to, nor should anyone else. When I see good deeds and empathetic actions of others, I have no inclination to wonder where it comes from either. Everything we do, even the nice things, even the self-sacrificial things, still carry a personal benefit - even if it is only a momentary happy feeling of doing good.

Ultimately you shouldn't feel bad for "not being good at this" - who ever feels good or right for doing something just because someone told them to?"

The following response was from my mother (who I don't think is aware of my atheism): "of course "loving others" is self beneficial. All God's commands are. By giving of our heart, our self, even our empathy we change a little inside. He doesn't say He won't love you if you don't. But in changing your heart toward man...you open your heart to Him. You do become a light in a sometimes dreary and over analytical world. He wants you to be willing to give and receive love. He knows we all have our limits but expects us to try just like we do our children (for their own good) and He still loves us when we don't quite succeed."

Now, first off I don't think she addressed my objection, and ultimately missed my point - that the empathy we feel for others (especially the kind that the guy in the original video used as an example of "love") has a completely natural explanation(s), and there's no reason to bring God into it at all. Not to mention that a mandatory command to love everyone is mostly nonsense and in ways unethical, thus no one should feel remorse for not being good at loving others.

My question: how would you respond to her? Basically she spoke a lot of assertions and average theistic nonsense. And honestly I'm not sure if I even feel like getting in to this discussion with my mother, especially on facebook. But of course the comment lingers there, with 4 or 5 "likes," and zero additional responses to her or me...

Our brains deceive us on a regular basis, so we have to find ways to fight back.
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23-02-2011, 01:27 PM
RE: Commandment of Love - Unethical? (And a Request for Assistance)
Dude... You need a hug.

As for the question, the idea that telling people that they should love others is unethical is absurd.

Is telling people they should love the same thing as telling them to hate? I can't even penetrate that.

Not the least bit earned? By whose metric? Yours? I'm sorry, but that seems like a rather cynical metric. Every great philosopher, every great man of peace, from Jesus, to Gandhi, to MLK, to Mother Theresa, to Desmond Tutu, to ad infinitum, tells us that everyone is deserving of love. Are you suggesting that not everyone or that no one is deserving of love?

I don't think I understand your argument about why it is unethical. It seems underexplained to me, but maybe that's just me. All I can get is that it has something to do with natural processes or something. Can you elaborate? Please do, because right now it just seems ridiculous.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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23-02-2011, 02:29 PM
RE: Commandment of Love - Unethical? (And a Request for Assistance)
Im thinking Glass is talking more about how a lot of people make it very hard to care for them, and it's kind of depressing to be expected to care anyway. But yes, if you don't give off at least a little bit of happiness throughout the day then what have you done? Allowing others to feel noticed by you is nothing bad, it simply connects the world a bit more. If you're going through a lot, then I want you to realize that love everyone does not mean there can't be reasons to dislike someone. Remember what familial love is, how often do families fight? That's love to. You can care about everyone no matter how despicable, and if you don't then you're not really working for the benefit of the species but isolating yourself.

Yes your mothers' answers added some unnecessary words into the equation, but you said yourself that empathy is natural. Caring for others in simple ways is considered selfless because it's an act that is communal rather than personal. Being part of a group means acknowledging everyone else. Part of why we like this forum over all those other places to talk is that we don't tend to get answers that say "oh you're an idiot shut up". Being a community means letting voices be heard.

I understand that the internet has allowed further independent living for people, but remember that personal interaction has a huge factor on your health. We naturally benefit from living within a group. In order to gain the most from this we need assurance that we are important members, and if you don't assure others who will assure you? I understand that idiots on the idiot just don't give a shit, and sometimes the people on the street are assholes. That doesn't mean you should be, take the time to let others know your appreciation for them and your mark on the world will be much more powerful.

I'm not a non believer, I believe in the possibility of anything. I just don't let the actuality of something be determined by a 3rd party.
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23-02-2011, 02:44 PM
 
RE: Commandment of Love - Unethical? (And a Request for Assistance)
Well when I see that "commandment" in and of itself it needs a lot of explaining. What is meant by 'love' exactly, and other questions of that ilk. However what I have done for that clarification is to look to the actions of Christ in the Gospels. From what I gathered he truly meant exactly what he said. He loved all, jew, gentiles, tax collectors, whores, etc... He actually treated them as family. He didn't threaten hell fire. He did say how he felt they should act to be accepted into his Father's kingdom though, without threats. I've actually never met anyone as selfless as Christ appears in the Gospels, actually not really even close. I'm not sure even how long that person would survive?

So I interpret the command literally, but I do also find it to absolutely unrealistic, and possibly not the smartest thing either. So to me I try and show respect to the people around me. I'm more of a do unto others person than a Love one and other person. In closer proximity to your question I don't find it morally or ethically reprehensible to be Christ-like, the problem is if their doing it in hopes of eternal reward they're SOL!
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23-02-2011, 02:57 PM
RE: Commandment of Love - Unethical? (And a Request for Assistance)
There is a passage in the bible where jesus was asked by one man on how to get to heaven.
jesus answered by saying that "you have to follow me and you cannot follow me unless you hate your mother, father, brothers , sisters and even life itself".

This is one of several of contridictions that jesus spoke about getting to heaven. Some phsychiatrists who have analyzed the bible have come to the conclusion that jesus was insane.

Also, it has been shown that certain kinds of brain siezures can cause experiences that match religious experiences.

Back to the question. Is it moral to ask everyone to LOVE each other? First define love. If you love a stranger like you love your family, your are insane. If you love those who victimize you or your family, you are insane.

If you respect people and treat them fairly unless they have given you a good reason not to, that is about the best you can expect people to be. But that is not what the question actually asks.

Be a good person, treat people fairly, don't victimize anyone and don't waste your time trying to make sense of the bible, or biblical teachings, because good is good and bad is bad and you don't need to pay 10% of your earnings to the church to know which is which.

When I find myself in times of trouble, Richard Dawkins comes to me, speaking words of reason, now I see, now I see.
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23-02-2011, 03:20 PM
 
RE: Commandment of Love - Unethical? (And a Request for Assistance)
Oh BTW I was talking about the 'other' Bible. The one the priest read me from the pulpit every Sunday through all those years as a Catholic. They didn't like us to actually read the one your talking about, LOL!
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23-02-2011, 04:16 PM
RE: Commandment of Love - Unethical? (And a Request for Assistance)
Ok some clarification, if I can manage to not muddle this.

First, I guess what I would personally look for is a greater clarification of "love." Love, to me, is the highest form of adoration, dedication, trust, and things of that nature. Love, to me, is an emotion you feel for someone you are close to. It contains compassion, and empathy, and all of these feelings. But personal love is earned. And I don't mean by monetary efforts or anything like that. It is time spent together, it's compatibility to some degree, it's understanding, and compromise. And while much of that refers to romantic love, it doesn't have to - think of close friends and family members.

Now, think of someone whom you have zero compatibility with, someone's opinions you do not agree with, whose actions you do not agree with. Do you love them just because? I doubt it. You can still offer respect, maybe compassion and empathy, and so on. But actually love them? Why?

Go further and think of a despicable person. Bigoted, selfish, harmful, abusive, violent, destructive. Do you love them? Even more doubtful. Should you love them? Why? Now, in this case you might pity them. You might still have empathy for them as a human being. You might still do things to help them. But to somehow offer them your utmost emotional state?

As far as the ethics are concerned, these are "commandments" from our supposed creator. We are expected to follow them. But is it ethical to command a person to experience an emotion, any emotion, to another person?

Here's the problem that probably set this off: the dude in the video states (and I have heard the same thing from other believers) that the reason we should love each other is to bring "glory to God" and "so that others may see Him in us" or things to that effect. I'm saying at the very least that that's a terrible reason to love others. Ghandi may have asked people to love each other, but Ghandi didn't claim to be god and he didn't ask people to love him so as to stroke his ego.

I guess again it depends on how you're defining love, and I am not saying love is a bad thing - nor am I saying love is equivalent to hate. Love as an all encompassing word of respect, empathy, and compassion can be a great philosophy. Love as a personal emotion is just that, personal. And no one, not god nor man nor friend nor foe, has any right to command me to feel a certain way about other people. It is the commandment that I'm taking issue with.

Probably could have said all that shorter. Sorry.

Our brains deceive us on a regular basis, so we have to find ways to fight back.
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23-02-2011, 09:20 PM
RE: Commandment of Love - Unethical? (And a Request for Assistance)
Your explanation was fine to me Glass. Christians usually give the reason for every good thing they do as a desire to appease "god". They act like every decision they make is made only because of their faith. That is always going to strike issues, and as was said even in their book the figureheads of Christianity "god" and Jesus constantly fail to live up to their own standards. I understand that this causes pain for some Christians, but realize most Christians actively hate. They make it a point to look down on those that don't believe. They don't feel pity and try to save them, they feel contempt unless the "sinners" will listen to them. They treat people like they aren't even human. Of course sometimes they have troubles with the laws they are supposed to follow, but according to their own book not even the infallible can do what is requested.

Generally the statement of love one another does not go as far as personal love, it can but yes that's not something easily done in the world. The people who support this book say it's all about interpretation, so remember you're perfectly free to interpret love any way you like if you actually want to make sense of it. But a lot of the time what is your real purpose in making sense of it?

I'm not a non believer, I believe in the possibility of anything. I just don't let the actuality of something be determined by a 3rd party.
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23-02-2011, 10:20 PM
RE: Commandment of Love - Unethical? (And a Request for Assistance)
Personally, I think the whole "love one another" thing is pretty hypocritical, because I've heard more hate spew out of "Christians" than I would be able to measure.

My reason for being is to serve as a cat cushion. That is good enough for me. Wink
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24-02-2011, 09:53 AM
 
RE: Commandment of Love - Unethical? (And a Request for Assistance)
Read In Defense of Ethical Egoism by Ayn Rand in her book The Fountainhead. She trashes this concept of love thy neighbor over yourself pretty hard, much more eloquently than I could anyway.

I help other people because it brings me personal fulfillment. Doesn't mean I love those I help.
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