Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why I "do good"; Why I try to be kind

I'm an atheist. And I try to do good. I try to be kind.

Why do I do nice things for other people? Why do I try to be kind - especially when I've got an impulse NOT to be kind? Because:
  • It feels good and puts me in a good mood if I'm not in such already.
  • I hope someone will do that for me when I'm in need.
  • It often puts a person that is receiving the kindness, or observing the kindness, in a good mood, and maybe it will inspire that person to do good for someone else.
  • I want a neighbor or co-worker to like me.
  • It makes me feel like I have some control over a little part of my day or life. 
  • Not doing something nice for someone, on purpose, makes me feel guilty, like I've let down my fellow humans. 
  • I like humans (most of the time), and animals all of the time (except mosquitos).

Why do I volunteer for nonprofit organizations? Because:
  • It feels good.
  • It makes me feel like I have some control over a little part of my day or life. 
  • There's a cause I feel passionately about, and I want to be a part of that cause.
  • The volunteer task sounds fun.
  • I want to understand a particular issue or activity better. 
  • I'm angry about something, and volunteering makes me feel like I'm doing something about it.
  • I think the other volunteers might be fun. 
  • I think a particular task or association with an organization will look good on my résumé or help me network with people who might want to hire me.
  • It gets me free tickets to a theater, dance or singing event I'd really like to see but can't afford.
  • I want to be a full, invested member of my community. It makes a community or place feel more "mine." 
I don't help others, or volunteer, to please a deity. I don't volunteer to get into a better after life.

Where does the impulse to do good come from? Not from a deity - certainly not from the same deity that compels its followers to rape and kill non-believers.

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California-Berkeley studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, including how the traits of altruism, compassion, empathy, and mindfulness transcend religions and contribute to happiness. The center notes that:

Compassion is a fundamental human trait, with deep psychological and evolutionary roots.

In short - we've evolved to be good, and goodness keeps our species - and our world - thriving.

Also see: Groups for Atheist and Secular Volunteers / Philanthropy.

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