This Speed Bump cartoon got me thinking. The cartoon depicts what might be called an exclusivistic and egotistical ethos: we’ve succeeded, now let’s keep the advantages of doing so to ourselves.
Exclusivism is found in religion, in nationalism, in economics, indeed in all areas of life.
But perhaps it is worth observing that neither the story of life on this planet told by science, nor earlier ones that humans created which are now embedded in a variety of sacred and other ancient texts, naturally leads to selflessness rather than selfishness. Even in religions that emphasize concern for others and self-sacrifice, often we find people being concerned for others because they believe that they must do so in order to be rewarded themselves. Self-interest on the individual and collective levels are hard to combat.
And so instead of dividing people into religious and non-religious categories, or sub-dividing beyond that, or distinguishing between nationalities, ethnicities, genders, or anything else that can be understood in terms of “us vs. them,” the biggest and most important distinction, cutting across all others, is between those who genuinely believe that it is worth loving and caring for others irrespective of recompense, and those whose morals or lack thereof ultimately lead back to a concern for one’s own reputation, rewards, or immortal soul.
Valuing others, valuing life, valuing anything at all is a matter of conviction, or perhaps one could even say “faith.” It is a matter of placing value beyond anything that can be demonstrated objectively.
It is a “faith” that many religious people lack, while many people of no religious persuasion and of different religious persuasions share.