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Summary of World Views about Social Action

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BIG QUESTIONS:    

    They say love your neighbour but don’t I only need to look after myself?
    Who cares about the whales, Burma etc ?
    Can one person make a difference to the world?
    There are so many charity collectors wanting my money; how can I choose?
    Isn’t life all about earning money and everyone for themselves?
    Do we need religion now we’ve got social services?
    Is believing or having faith more important than doing?


COMMON THEMES:
For all the worldviews represented in this project, the social implications of faith or belief were of essential importance:
    •    All agreed that happiness derived from helping others, not just oneself
    •    All agreed that the poor and excluded are the top priority for charity/doing good
    •    Social justice, and equal treatment for all regardless of race, gender, religion, origin etc
    •    Most say the performance of menial/mundane tasks of service is good in itself
    •    All traditions had specific organisations for education, poverty relief in the community
    •    All also had methods and/or organisations for wider purposes (eg international relief; education/training to lift people out of poverty, etc)


DISTINCTIVE VIEWS:
The Sikh contribution draws on the basic Sikh focus on self and others:
    •    All Sikh philosophy is based on the twin concepts of self-realisation (Simran) and selfless service (Seva)
    •    The Gurus said that God is in humankind: so Sikhs serve God by serving people, individually, or through voluntary organisations
    •    The Gurdwara offers free food to all and shelter to all who need it
    •    Sikhs are encouraged to carry out menial tasks (serving, cleaning) as part of their daily lives
    •    Education and all forms of social provision must be available for all, regardless of race, gender, caste or age

The Buddhist contribution tries to balance monastic and household/community traditions:
    •    Monastic life releases people from the myths, regulation and compromises of social life, renouncing paid work or even asking for food - to spend time understanding who we truly are
    •    Social action, as practised by other Buddhist communities, includes education, health, poverty, nation, etc
    •    Asking whether meditation or social action is better is asking the wrong question
    •    What is important is generosity, moderation, virtue, ethics - all are tools for living


The Christian contribution emphasises the universal prevalence of doing good:
    •    Helping others seems to make all of us happier: having money and possessions doesn’t
    •    Moral heroes, (eg Martin Luther King, Mandela) excite our admiration
    •    But we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we can’t be like them
    •    Jesus says visiting the sick, giving a drink to the thirsty, feeding the hungry, being nice to people are the most important things
    •    But selfishness - eg using all our money for ourselves - is always wrong - we should all ask - what difference can we make - in college, community or at home


The Hindu contribution emphasises:
    •    Good is dependent on context - the same action can be good for one person and bad for another
    •    Good can be short-term (pleasurable) or long-term (beneficial)
    •    Hindus see doing good as getting our priorities right
    •    Because we and all reality are spirit, undivided, when we help or hurt others, we help or harm ourselves
    •    Doing good links us with our real spiritual nature, doing harm obscures it


The Humanist contribution is underpinned by the belief that in this world we have:
    •    Human problems can only be solved by humans, so humanists have been active social reformers
    •    Happiness can only be achieved by making others happy
    •    Compassion, justice based on equality, open democracy and a sense of duty are driving principles
    •    Many organisations, for education, poverty relief, homelessness, health have been set up and/or supported by humanists
    •    International co-operation, through the United Nations, Human Rights, UNESCO etc


The Jewish contribution begins with scriptural and rabbinic texts on charity:
    •    “Justice shall you pursue ...”   Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God
    •    Through social action, we become partners in God’s creation, improving the world
    •    Educating people, teaching a trade, supporting employment - to prevent people remaining in poverty is the highest task
    •    Jews have led on Women’s Right, Civil Rights in US, refugee work, all based on updating the Torah


The Muslim contribution emphasises:
    •    Social action is a form of worship, as much as rituals and prayer
    •    All activities which help fellow humans, or the environment, are part of faith
    •    Zakah is a percentage of annual income to be given to the poor
    •    Being a good neighbour involves six duties from greeting, to advice and visiting
    •    Sharing our goods with others and offering hospitality are obligations