I read Joshua Becker’s post last night titled “We Are Wealthy. And Why That Matters” (which was truly profound for me, btw and I highly recommend reading it, sharing it and maybe printing it out and sticking it on your frig,) and one of the comments (related to the article’s discussion about how we might be more generous once we realize how wealthy we really are) seriously pushed my buttons because the commenter made the assertion that “The fewer [people who attend church] each week, each year, each decade that we see in western society, the less virtuous we become.”
I come from an unchurched family and spent my early years on a quest to find my religion — started with the Methodist church of my babysitter, then the Greek Orthodox church of another babysitter, a Catholic church with my best friend and even a brief stint with the Mormon church — all before I graduated from high school. In the decades since, I’ve found my religion only twice — at a Unitarian Universalist church when my kids were little and we were looking for “religious tolerance” in the Bible belt and again at a Unity church we visited for an Easter service one year. In all cases, I’ve been turned off by the “virtuous” at these churches and have repeatedly confirmed that virtuosity and church attendance are two completely different things.
But the question is not one of just defense for my own lack of church attendance — it’s really about what motivates us to be generous. I have found that as my personal beliefs have moved away from traditional religions (where we are physical beings trying to become spiritual beings in the afterlife) to non-traditional spiritualism (where we are spiritual beings learning from this physical experience in order to evolve our souls) my generosity has expanded. I am now much more concerned with relieving (or at least acknowledging) the suffering and plight of others. I am called to learn from my experiences and question them. Did I do something to “deserve” this relatively easy western-culture lifestyle that those in third-world countries did not do? (I don’t think so) And if I did nothing to deserve it, how is my journey in this life related to that affluence? This is the wellspring of generosity for me.
What motivates you to give?