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Thread: Christianity has failed to…

  1. #1 Christianity has failed to… 
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    Christianity has failed to…


    I claim that the Christian religion has failed to teach empathy; one of the most important moral concepts we have.

    There are various definitions of empathy given by various individuals but almost all of them point to the same meaning. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand the feelings, thoughts, and beliefs of another person. Empathy is often characterized as the ability to “walk in the shoes of another”, i.e. to acquire an emotional resonance with another.

    In his classic work about modern art, “Abstraction and Empathy”, Wilhelm Worringer provides us with a theory of empathy derived from Theodor Lipps that can be usefully applied to objects of art as well as all objects including persons.

    “The presupposition of the act of empathy is the general apperceptive activity. Every sensuous object, in so far as it exists for me, is always the product of two components, that which is sensuously given and of my apperceptive activity.”

    Apperception—the process of understanding something perceived in terms of previous experience.

    What does in so far as it exists for me mean. I would say that something exists for me when I comprehend that something. Comprehension is a hierarchical concept and can be usefully considered as in the shape of a pyramid. At the base of the comprehension pyramid is awareness that is followed by consciousness. We are aware of many things but we are conscious of much less. Consciousness is awareness plus our focused attention.

    Continuing with the pyramid analogy, knowing follows consciousness and understanding is at the pinnacle of the pyramid. We know less than we are conscious of and we understand less than we know. Understanding is about meaning whereas knowing is about knowledge. To move from knowing something to a point when that something is meaningful to me, i.e. understood by me, is a big step for man and a giant step for mankind.

    My very best friend is meaningful to me and my very worst enemy must, for security reasons, also be meaningful to me. The American failures in Vietnam and Iraq are greatly the result of the fact that our government and our citizens never understood these ‘foreigners’. We failed at the very important relationship—we did not empathesize with the people and thus failed to understand our enemy. It is quite possible that if we had understood them we would never have gone to war with them.

    If we had empathy with Germany in the 1930s would we have stopped Hitler before he forced us into war?

    If we had empathy with Germany before August 1914 would we have prevented WWI?

    Do you agree that we understand our best friend and that we must also understand our worst enemy?


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  3. #2  
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    A Ritual To Read To Each Other

    If you don't know the kind of person I am
    and I don't know the kind of person you are
    a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
    and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

    For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
    a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
    sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
    storming out to play through the broken dyke.

    And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
    but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
    I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
    to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

    And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
    a remote important region in all who talk:
    though we could fool each other, we should consider?
    lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

    For it is important that awake people be awake,
    or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
    the signals we give, yes or no, or maybe
    should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
    -William Stafford


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