Riker's Mailbox

Monday, October 15, 2007


What if we were all secular humanists?

Imagine a world where every human being understood that there is no afterlife. Every single one of the six-billion-plus of us realized that this life is the only one we get. And moreso, we also realize that there are people suffering. There are the unfortunate who are still lacking the comforts and givens of the developed world.

Assuming a comparable* number of good-willed and proactive people populating this imaginary world, they would all be involved in a universal and dedicated effort to improve the quality of life for as many of the world's neediest people as possible; there would be no nobler cause to support. We would all work as hard as we could to help. Imagine how much we could accomplish if after taking care of our personal needs, we all labored cooperatively toward creating a greater world for humanity.

There is no need to fear the old-fashioned bogeyman of communism, in which I know many will detect a similarity to my scenario. Notice I said 'after taking care of our personal needs'. By 'personal needs' I mean every last thing that we choose to make important, whether it be feeding and clothing ourselves and our dependents, or if it's planning an expensive vacation to Hawaii. We can still be as capitalist and self-serving as we want to be. But many of us will have resources leftover after taking care of our personal interests.

So all I'm saying is: with the time and resources that the fortunate have leftover, what if they all applied them toward providing basic needs to the most needy of our global family? Eventually clean water, adequate shelter and sufficient food would be provided to everyone on the planet who lacked it before.

And then a remarkable thing happens: the most needy people on the planet will no longer be defined in terms of the hardships of starvation and general poverty; instead they will be defined by a lesser need. Perhaps lack of educational infrastructure. So, what if the fortunate peoples of the world didn't stop giving? Eventually everyone in the world would have a reliable education at their fingertips.

As the progression continues, the needs of the neediest will one by one be eliminated according to their severity, until those remaining needs slowly come to resemble the desires of the average. Allow the trend to continue long enough, and we approach the goal that more and more of our needs are accommodated for, and more and more of us can spend more time striving toward experiencing the luxuries of life. As more people ascend to lifestyles that allow them to yield their own surplus, the resource-base for charity expands exponentially. Needs eventually become extinct and the worldwide population comes as close we ever have to experiencing heaven on earth. A real paradise the human family can experience together.

Now, imagine that one-tenth of the people in this scenario had an additional drain on their resources. Something that took a significant portion of their time and money, and wasted it on an empty promise of a better life than could ever be experienced on this world.

This has a twofold effect: 10% of the population automatically has less time and money available to contribute to bettering the world, and that same 10% come to develop a complacency toward wanting to better the world. "Why bother working on this one when the REAL prize is in the world to come?" Those 10% are no longer working as hard as they can toward bettering the world. Now, all of the sudden it takes 10% longer to achieve paradise on the planet.

In our world, it is not one-tenth of the population afflicted by this misconception. In our world, most of us... in fact enough to be able to say almost all of us... behave like the 10% in my scenario above. Most of the people on the planet are complacent about suffering on earth... to some degree their own suffering, and to a much greater degree that of others far removed from them. Most people don't give a damn and don't give a dime to make the world better because they're not too worried about it; there's heaven to prepare for.

So in our world, how long will it take, how many lifetimes when it's only 10 percent fighting the unrelenting tide of majority? How many generations will continue to suffer while the dismal minority are the only ones left trying our hardest to move toward heaven on earth?

And on a totally unrelated note - It bothers the hell out of me that 'sub-par' and 'under par' have opposite meanings.

* - to this world

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