The following was an old blog post of mine from August 2008 originally titled, “Selfishness: Why Bad?”
If you have ever noticed, everyone is selfish in their actions, regardless of whether they intend it to be that way. Even religious “fundamentalists” are selfish, as well as socialists, clergymen, Good Samaritans, revolutionaries, and holy saints. In the end, it is an inescapable fact of human nature to follow your own self-interest, even when you tell yourself that you are following someone else’s will or plan. In other words, altruism in practice is inherently selfish, though misguided at best. Let’s examine a few examples to better elaborate my claims.
Starting slowly with the obvious, someone who unabashedly follows their own will and who lives for his own sake independent of others even in a reciprocal sense is selfish. While this is true, how do those who wail the loudest that they serve others’ interests above their own truly serve their own interests in the end? Is that not a contradiction in terms? Not if the reasoning is cogent.
Catholics (both Tridentine and Norvus Ordo strands, but for simplicity’s sake let’s stick with the Tridentine, better known as Traditional Catholics given that they are more rigid) have always been taught that the most important thing is to get your soul into Heaven. Depending upon an individual’s “sin quotient” if you will, you may hit intermediate stops on the way, such as Limbo, Purgatory, and the like, but ultimately your soul will end up in one of two place: Heaven or Hell. Even if Heaven turned out to be mediocre or boring, Hell is still by far the worst deal of the two, and at best, the choice in the afterlife is between eternal damnation and eternal pleasure, which to any rational person is a no-brainer choice. However, in order to achieve heavenly membership, while on Earth you must submit (or Islam) your will to God’s; this requires in essence becoming your brother’s keeper and placing your fellow man’s interests above your own. If anything, this fallacious reasoning is so due to the inherent contradictory premises, that in order to pursue your interest (entrance into Heaven) you must first serve others on Earth, because that SOMEHOW fits into God’s divine Plan.
Come on, that isn’t absolute altruism, what is going on here is the use of altruism as an overt mechanism in order to achieve a selfish end (and for the moment, do not consider the probability of an actual afterlife or the existence of a God since in trying to prove my point I need to assume for the moment that God and afterlife locales, like Purgatory, do exist). In monotheistic religious texts (Torah, Bible, Qur’an) it is mentioned scattered throughout that the faithful would be rewarded for their selfless actions. Whoa. That is not altruism at all, that’s a deal. Apparently, somebody has been lied to; altruism is a red herring, the real deal (pardon the pun) is that religiously devout people who choose to submit to God are doing so for the express purpose of being rewarded after they are dead. They are exchanging value for value in a voluntary mutual exchange that benefits both parties. It could be argued that God benefits by increasing the numbers in Heaven, but then again the theological doctrine would state that God needed nothing before Time began, thus it was out of Love that he created everything that exists for his own pleasure.
Sounds pretty selfish to me if even God is no different in essence from an American industrialist. God seems to not love everyone and everything indiscrimantely, he loves those for rational values he deems important, which by definition is selfish on his part. If God is unwilling to sacrifice himself to the human race (Jesus of Nazareth dying for humankind’s collective sinfulness was NOT a sacrifice on either’s part, since for some reason they valued humanity for qualities they seemed to admire; it was in their own interest that Jesus was crucified) why in God’s name are WE expected to do more than the Almighty?
Let me express the idea graphically. Would you prefer to be this:
Or the fellow on the funeral pyre?
Or perhaps this instead:
If my reasoning was fallacious at times, I do apologize. My goal was to share the notion that true altruism cannot exist, for it is an evil mechanism designed to enslave mankind.