Monday, September 21, 2009

The Blessings of Enlightened Self-Interest

Atheist Victor Nuovo, professor of philosophy at Middlebury College, believes that we don’t need God to be good ("Rutland Herald," Oct. 4, 07). Instead, “self-love” will guide us into all goodness:

“This principle transforms itself into a rational desire for community. We cherish and enjoy this life for others as well as ourselves; we care for each other as parts of infinite nature; we become persons and lovers of nature; and we endeavor not only to preserve each other in being but also to promote a shared happiness through acts of kindness, through friendliness, and also through laws [call them laws of nature] and institutions that foster and promote life.”

According to Nuovo, if we’re truly selfish, we’ll selfishly want the best for others. Indeed, selfishness might lead us to be kind, but it also seems to breed jealousy, revenge, theft, lying, gossip, and even warfare. At this point, the atheist might respond, “Wait a second. I’m talking about enlightened selfishness! If we really pursue our ultimate self-interests with wisdom, we’ll act in loving ways towards others! If we don’t, we’ll pay a high price in the long run.”

Although selfishness and far-sighted wisdom may lead us to live in harmony with conscience and society, they still leave us far short of Nuovo’s loving community. Just look at our multi-national corporations. They are certainly self-interested and far-sighted. They must be in order to protect their extensive investments, and they may do some good public-relations work and build a few schools. However, they still need require regulations backed by stiff sanctions to keep them “honest.”

However, even if enlightened self-interest is adequate to produce heaven on earth, the atheist is still in serious danger of encountering God. As the rays of light are traceable back to our sun, all truth points back to God. If the atheist is true to his principle of enlightened self-interest, this too should lead him into God’s embrace.

Just think of it--- self-interest made us say “Yes!” to Christ’s call. It would have been pure foolishness to reject life in favor of misery. In God, the Evidence, Patrick Glynn asserts that those with religious belief do far better physically and emotionally:

“Religious belief is one of the most consistent correlates of overall mental health and happiness. Study after study has shown a powerful relationship between religious belief and practice, on the one hand, and healthy behaviors with regard to such problems as suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, divorce, depression, even, perhaps surprisingly, levels of sexual satisfaction in marriage, on the other” (pg. 61).

Does Nuovo truly believe in enlightened self-interest, or did he merely expect it to provide a safe haven from God? If he is sincere, he needs to do some praying.

No comments:

Post a Comment