Ahh, Lent! My favorite time of year when Facebook is filled with notices of trivial sacrifices of harmless indulgences (chocolate, soda, reality tv, etc. I wonder if anyone ever gives up religion for Lent?). Certainly there's nothing particularly wrong with this practice, but it does raise some questions to my mind.
First, is this anything more than a public display of one's religiosity as a proxy for their morality? In American culture, there is a strong implicit association between religiosity and morality, fallacious though it may be. I imagine that for some part of the impetus for such self-deprivation is to prove to one's self their ability to maintain a goal and reach it, which is probably a useful exercise.
However, if such displays are, indeed, meant to convey a sense of morality, why not cut out the intermediary of religion? That is, instead of performing an act that doesn't promote the well-being of anyone else (which is somehow meant to be indicative of a good person), why not just perform an act that more clearly demonstrates and promotes some generally accepted moral act? Here are some pretty basic and easy to perform ideas:
- Volunteer your time to help people that are less fortunate. VolunteerMatch.org is a great way to search for volunteering opportunities in your area that fit your interests.
- Donate to a charity
- Red Cross
- Doctors Without Borders
- Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
- Planned Parenthood. PP performed 1.5 million screenings and procedures in 2011. Regardless of your feelings on abortion, this procedure makes up only 3% of PP's annual operations. The rest is focused on testing and treatment of STDs, eduction, cancer screenings, and contraception [PDF].
Yet, one certainly need not be religious to engage in socially productive activities. While I am currently engaged in a volunteer program, I have decided to use Lent, or rather my disdain for those who use religion as a proxy for morality, as an impetus to give to a worthy charity.
Specifically, the Foundation Beyond Belief is participating in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Light the Night Walks to raise awareness and money for research of blood cancer treatments. Their goal is to "unite the Freethought Movement around the world to raise one million U.S. Dollars in 2012 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)."
In addition, the Steifel Freethought Foundation has pledged to match the first $500,000 raised. So in order to meet the $1 million goal, the rest of the community needs to raise $500,000. I want to help make that happen.
On the face of it, this may appear hypocritical: I've criticized people for making public displays of piousness, and here I am engaging in self-promotion myself. But the critical difference, in my opinion, is that 1) giving to a charity is not a meaningless act 2) I haven't and don't argue that all good deeds should remain anonymous.
Additionally, the purpose of this effort is three fold:
- Contribute to the advancement of scientific research of a disease
- Encourage others to contribute to a good cause
- Raise awareness to the fact that non-religious people can be and are moral and contribute to society in a positive manner
If you enjoy this blog, please consider a donation on behalf of it. Or just donate on your own behalf. Either way, everyone wins.
I plan to post each day with a screenshot of my donation (although I'll probably need to do a summary every couple days to accommodate my schedule).
So that's what I'm going to be doing... perhaps not "for" Lent, but "during" Lent. What are you doing?