This post has a lot of overlap with my ‘equality‘ post. The purpose of that one was to find quotes which could be interpreted as placing all humans on a similar footing in terms of worth, moral perfectibility, etc. The question here is of philosophies which indicate a expansive view of the human community and one’s obligations towards it.

So, who would be considered universalistic? I would say Christianity, Buddhism, Mohism, Stoics (and perhaps other Greek philosophies as well, though less explicitly). Confucianism, as it developed, could be considered universalistic but not impartial. Hinduism is questionable because of the stress it places on people’s specific obligations based on caste, and towards those of other castes.

Once again, as noted by jhappolati, the different ontologies of eastern and western philosophies complicate comparisons.

There’s not much debate about Buddhism and Christianity, I think, so I won’t quote anything from them. The Greek tradition experienced a strong turn towards universalism with the conquests of Alexander and the decline of city-states.

The Chinese Tradition – early statements

[See discussion at jhappolati.wordpress.com and resolution: “Confucianism is universalistic but not ‘impartialistic.’”]

Mencius. 7A, 45
Mencius said, ‘In regard to [inferior] creatures, the superior man loves them but is not humane to them (that is, showing them the feeling due human beings). In regard to people generally, he is humane to them but not affectionate. He is affectionate to his parents and humane to all people. He is humane to all people and feels love for all creatures.’

Taoism Chuang Tzu 23
If you step on a stranger’s foot in the marketplace, you apologize at length for your carelessness. If you step on your older brother’s foot, you give him an affectionate pat, and if you step on your parent’s foot, you know you are already forgiven. So it is said, “Perfect ritual makes no distinction of persons; perfect righteousness takes no account of things [wealth]; perfect knowledge does not scheme; perfect benevolence knows no [partiality in] affection; perfect trust dispenses with gold.”

Mohism (Mozi – ‘Love III’)
“If we should classify one by one all those who hate others and injure others, should we find them to be universal in love or partial? Of course we should say they are partial. Now, since partiality against one another is the cause of the major calamities in the empire, then partiality is wrong… Partiality is to be replaced by universality… If we should classify one by one all those who love others and benefit others, should we find them to be partial or universal? Of course we should say they are universal. Now, since universal love is the cause of the major benefits in the world, therefore Mozi proclaims universal love is right.

Later Chinese Tradition
Chinese tradition as represented in standard moral texts in the last millenium shows a great deal of syncretism of the above traditions, as well as influence from Buddhism.

T’ai-Shang Kan-Ying P’ien (which had huge distribution in China, perhaps at levels comparable to the Bible in the West)
“With a compassionate heart turn toward all creatures.
Be faithful, filial, friendly, and brotherly.
First rectify thyself and then convert others.
Take pity on orphans, assist widows; respect the old, be kind to children.
Even the multifarious insects, herbs, and trees should not be injured.
Be grieved at the misfortune of others and rejoice at their good luck.
Assist those in need, and rescue those in danger.
Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and regard your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.”

See also, “The Tract of the Quiet Way

Greeks and Romans

Socrates (attributed by Plutarch)
I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

Alexander the Great
from Mircea Eliade’s “A History of Religious Ideas”
“When the Macedonians mutinied at Opis – because as one of them put it, “You have made Persians your relatives” – Alexander exclaimed: “But I have made you all my relatives!” The sedition ended in a banquet of reconciliation to which, according to tradition, 3,000 persons were invited. At the end of it Alexander uttered a prayer for peace and wished that all the peoples on earth could live together in harmony and in unity of heart and mind (homonoia). “He had previously said that all men were sons of one Father, and that his prayer was the expression of his recorded belief that he had a mission from God to be the Reconciler of the World.(Tarn, Alexander the Great, p. 117)”

Zeno (from Plutarch)
“The much admired Republic of Zeno … is aimed at this main point, that our household arrangements should not be based on cities or parishes, each one marked out by its own legal system, but we should regard all men as our fellow citizens and local residents, and there should be one way of life and order, like that of a herd grazing together and nurtured by a common law. Zeno wrote this, picturing as it were, a dream or image of a philosopher’s well regulated society.”

Cicero (On Ends)
“The mere fact of their common humanity requires that one man should feel another man to be akin to him.”

“There is nothing so like anything else as we are to one another” and to treat foreigners worse than romans would lead to the destruction of “the whole foundation of the human community” and will lead to “the annihilation of all kindness, generosity, goodness and justice.”

Cicero (On Duties 1.50)
“The interests of society, however, and its common bonds will be best conserved, if kindness be shown to each individual in proportion to the closeness of his relationship. But it seems we must trace back to their ultimate sources the principles of fellowship and society that Nature has established among men. The first principle is that which is found in the connection subsisting between all the members of the human race; and that bond of connection is reason and speech, which by the processes of teaching and learning, of communicating, discussing, and reasoning associate men together and unite them in a sort of natural fraternity. In no other particular are we farther removed from the nature of beasts; for we admit that they may have courage (horses and lions, for example); but we do not admit that they have justice, equity, and goodness; for they are not endowed with reason or speech. This, then, is the most comprehensive bond that unites together men as men and all to all; and under it the common right to all things that Nature has produced for the common use of man is to be maintained, with the understanding that, while everything assigned as private property by the statutes and by civil law shall be so held as prescribed by those same laws, everything else shall be regarded in the light indicated by the Greek proverb: “Amongst friends all things in common.”
Furthermore, we find the common property of all men in things of the sort defined by Ennius; and, though restricted by him to one instance, the principle may be applied very generally:
Who kindly sets a wand’rer on his way
Does e’en as if he lit another’s lamp by his:
No less shines his, when he his friend’s hath lit.
In this example he effectively teaches us all to bestow even upon a stranger what it costs us nothing to give.

Cicero (On the Laws – book I)
“But of all the things which are a subject of philosophical debate there is nothing more worthwhile than clearly to understand that we are born for justice and that justice is established not by opinion but by nature. That will be clear if you examine the common bonds among human beings. There is no similarity, no likeness of one thing to another, so great as the likeness we all share. If distorted habits and false opinions did not twist weak minds and bend them in any direction, no one would be so like himself as all people would be like all others. Thus, whatever definition of a human being one adopts is equally valid for all humans… and the things that are impressed upon the mind, the rudiments of understanding which I mentioned before, are impressed similarly on all humans, and language, the interpreter of the mind, may differ in words but is identical in ideas. There is no person of any nation who cannot reach virtue with the aid of a guide… Trouble, happiness, desires, and fears pass equally through the minds of all, and if different peoples have different beliefs, that does not mean that the superstition that affects people who worship dogs and cats is not the same as that
which besets other races. What nation is there that does not cherish affability, generosity, a grateful mind and one that remembers good deeds? What nation does not scorn and hate people who are proud, or evildoers, or cruel, or ungrateful? From all these things it may be understood that the whole human race is bound together; and the final result is that the understanding of the right way of life makes all people better…

It follows, then, that we have been made by nature to receive the knowledge of justice one from another and share it among all people. … All people have reason, and therefore justice has been given to all…

… when he has (so to speak) got a grip on the god who guides and rules these things and has recognized that he is not bound by human walls as the citizen of one particular spot but a citizen of the whole world as if it were a single city…”

Dionysius of Helicarnassus (14.6.1 – adapted)
“The Romans are magnanimous, unlike the Athenians and Spartans who treated people of their own stock with the brutatlity of barbarians. Greeks are to be distinguished by barbarians, not by name or language, but by intelligence and a predilection for decent behaviour that shuns inhumane treatment. Those should be called Greeks whose plans and actions are fair and humane. ”

(Discourses, ii. 5. 26) – “Each human being is primarily a citizen of his own commonwealth; but he is also a member of the great city of gods and men, where of the city political is only a copy.”
(Golden sayings) – “Never, when asked one’s country, [should you answer], ‘I am an Athenian or a Corinthian,’ but ‘I am a citizen of the world.'”

Seneca (Epistles, xlvii. 10)
“Kindly remember that he whom you call your slave sprang from the same stock, is smiled upon by the same skies, and on equal terms with yourself breathes, lives, and dies…
“The World is the mother of us all, and the ultimate origin of each one of us can be traced back to her, whether the steps in the ladder of descent be noble or humble. To no one is virtue forbidden; she is accessible to all; she admits everyone, she invites everyone in; free men and freedmen, slaves, kings, and exiles…
There is one short rule that should regulate human relationships. All that you see, both divine and human, is one. We are the parts of one great body. Nature created us from the same source and to the same end. She imbued us with mutual affection and sociability, she taught us to be fair and just, to suffer injury rather than to inflict it. She bids extend our hands to all in need of help. let that well-known line be in our hearts and on our lips: I am a man. I deem nothing pertaining to man foreign to me. ”

Marcus Aurelius
(Meditations, II) “Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away. ”
(Meditations III) “For the lot which is assigned to each man is carried along with him and carries him along with it. And he remembers also that every rational animal is his kinsman, and that to care for all men is according to man’s nature”
(Meditations IV) “If our intellectual part is common, the reason also, in respect of which we are rational beings, is common: if this is so, common also is the reason which commands us what to do, and what not to do; if this is so, there is a common law also; if this is so, we are fellow-citizens; if this is so, we are members of some political community; if this is so, the world is in a manner a state. For of what other common political community will any one say that the whole human race are members?”
(Meditations VIII)”He does not forget the brotherhood of all rational beings, nor that a concern for every man is proper to humanity; and he knows that it is not the world’s opinions he should follow, but only those of men whose lives confessedly accord with Nature.”

Hierocles (2nd century AD – fragment from Stobaeus)
“Each one of us is as it were entirely encompassed by many circles, some smaller, others larger, the latter enclosing the former on the basis of their different and unequal dispositions relative to each other. The first and closest circle is the one which a person has drawn as though around a centre, his own mind. This circle encloses the body and anything taken for the sake of the body. For it is virtually the smallest circle, and almost touches the centre itself. Next, the second one further removed from the centre but enclosing the first circle; this contains parents, siblings, wife, and children. The third one has in it uncles and aunts, grandparents, nephews, nieces, and cousins. The next circle includes the other relatives, and this is followed by the circle of local residents, then the circle of fellow-tribesmen, next that of fellow citizens, and then in the same way the circle of people from neighboring towns, and the circle of fellow-countrymen. The outermost and largest circle, which encompasses all the rest, is that of the whole human race… Once all these [circles] have been surveyed, it is the task of a well tempered man, in his proper treatment of each group, to draw the circles together somehow toward the
center, and to keep zealously transferring those from the enclosing circles into the enclosed ones… It is incumbent upon us to respect people from the third circle as if they were those from the second, and again to respect our other relatives as if they were those from the third circle. É The right point will be reached if, through our own initiative, we reduce the distance of the relationship with each person.”

Dio Chrysostom (ca. 40 – 120 AD) Discourse 7.133 – 133
In dealing with brothel-keepers and their trade we must certainly betray no weakness as though something were to be said on both sides, but must sternly forbid them and insist that no one… shall pursue such a business, thus levying a fee, which all the world condemns as shameful, upon brutality and lust… Neither barbarian women, I say, nor Greeks – of whom the latter were in former times almost free but now live in bondage utter and complete – shall they put in such shameful constraint… It is our duty, therefore, to give some heed to this and under no condition to bear this mistreatment of outcast and enslaved creatures with calmness and indifference, not only because all humanity has been held in honour and in equal honour by God, who begat it, having the same marks and tokens to show that it deserves honour, to wit, reason and the knowledge of evil and good…”

Jesus Mythicism

I tend to shift interests every so often, and I seem to be moving back towards questions of religion right now. I think this may be partly because of the new book by Bart Ehrman arguing that Jesus really existed. I was disturbed to discover the prevalence in the atheist community of belief in Jesus mythicism. This is simply not a very reasonable position. The fact that the accounts of Jesus almost certainly had various accretions does not make him equivalent to any random legendary figure like King Arthur or Achilles.

It’s a good reminder that simple-minded ‘skepticism’ is as likely to lead you astray as not being skeptical enough.

Comparing Christianity & Judaism with surrounding cultures

Often when Christian or Jewish morality is being compared favourably to other ancients civilizations, it is being compared to the Greco-Romans, who it has to be admitted, were not extremely compassionate, or the baby-sacrificing Canaanites. But there are other civilizations that they can be compared to –  places like Egypt. Actually, Strabo even called the Jews “Egyptian in origin.”

Starting with human sacrifice : as with Greece and Rome, human sacrifice had disappeared by the historic period in Egypt, being certainly gone by 2800 BC, with evidence before that being questionable, but possibly indicating retainer sacrifice.

Slavery: naturally Greece and Rome come off looking bad in this comparison. However, first we need to clear up something about Jewish slave practices. While much is made of the leniency of Jewish slave practices, in fact this is only because they had two sets of rules in regards to slaves: one for Jewish slaves (7 year terms, treated more as servants…) and another for non-Jewish slaves. No such special treatment existed for non-Jewish slaves, who were, in fact, the majority of slaves. From the book “Jewish Slavery in Antiquity”:

According to the Torah, no restrictions apply to Israelites’ purchase of slaves of other ethnic origins (cf. Lev. 25: 44–5). Such slaves may be given to one’s children as an inheritance, that is, they may be enslaved permanently or as long as the master wishes (Lev. 24: 46). No particular precautions have to be taken with regard to their treatment. The Israelite master is allowed to ‘treat them as slaves’ (ibid.). Unlike Israelite slaves, whose enslavement is seen as a lapse of fortune and a reversal of the Exodus experience (see especially Lev. 25: 42: ‘For they are my servants, whom I freed from the land of Egypt; they may not give themselves over into servitude’), a curse rests on certain other nations such as the Canaanites and Gibeonites, a curse which justified their permanent enslavement.

The situation is Egypt is difficult to determine, partly because of how one defines ‘slaves’ – but some estimates hovering around 10% (compared to up to a 1/3 in the Greco-Roman heartland. There were many statements about the obligation to treat slaves well in Egyptian writings.

Infanticide: Strabo says this about the Egyptians (also showing their similarity to the Jews): “One of the customs most zealously observed among the egyptians is this, that they rear every child that is born, and circumcise the males, and excise the females, as is also customary among the Jews, who are also Egyptian in origin, as I have already stated in my account of them.” From Wikipedia:

In Egyptian households at all social levels children of both sexes were valued and there is no evidence of infanticide. The religion of the Ancient Egyptians forbade infanticide and during the Greco-Roman period they rescued abandoned babies from manure heaps, a not uncommon method of infanticide by Greeks or Romans, and were allowed to either adopt them as foundlings or raise them as slaves, often giving them names such as “copro -” to memorialise their rescue. Strabo considered it a peculiarity of the Egyptians that every child must be reared. Diodorus indicates infanticide was a punishable offence.

Women: Joyce tyldesley on women in ancient Egypt (source):

An exception to most other ancient societies, Egyptian women achieved parity with Egyptian men. They enjoyed the same legal and economic rights, at least in theory, and this concept can be found in Egyptian art and contemporary manuscripts. The disparities between people’s legal rights were based on differences in social class and not on gender. Legal and economic rights were afforded to both men and women.

Egyptian women’s rights extended to all legally defined areas of Egyptian civilization. Women could manage, own, and sell private property, which included slaves, land, portable goods, servants, livestock, and money. Women could resolve legal settlements. Women could conclude any kind of legal settlement. Women could appear as a contracting partner in a marriage contract or a divorce contract; they could execute testaments; they could free slaves; women could make adoptions. Women were entitled to sue at law. This amount of freedom was at variance with that of the Greek women who required a designated male, called a kourios, to represent or stand for her in all legal contracts and proceedings.

On executions and the value of human life. From “Social Justice in the Ancient World”:

…the monarch himself was responsible and liable for pronouncing sentences in capital cases. It is significant that kings are occasionally depicted as reluctant to execute criminals. Indeed, monarchs who were not troubled by this responsibility could be suspected of acting unjustly.

For example… a literary composition dating to about 1600 BC, contains a portrayal of the Old Kingdom monarch, Khufu… the king is told of a man named Djedi who is reputed to have the ability to restore to life a person who had been decapitated…

“‘Is the rumor true that you are able to re-attach a head that has been severed (from its body)?’
‘Yes, I am able, my sovereign, my lord.’ Djedi answered.
Then the king said, ‘Have a prisoner who is in jail brought to me, and execute his sentence!’
But Djedi said, ‘No, my sovereign, my lord – not to a human being! Behold it is forbidden to do such a thing to the precious cattle (of god)!'”

…the attitude and belief expressed by Djedi to the king should be regarded as a widely held tenet of ancient Egyptian morality. Human beings, even criminals, were ultimately considered to be under the watchful eye of the divine… and were not to be killed on a whim. Royal power was limited by divine injunction.


More on Egyptian ethics

Early Tomb Inscription (From “Social Justice in the Ancient world”):

I have carried out justice for my lord;
I have satisfied him with what he loves.
I spoke truly; I did what was right;
I spoke fairly, and reported accurately.
I held onto what was opportune, so as to stand well with people.
I adjudicated between two, so as to content them both,
I rescued the weak from one stronger than he, as much as was in my power.
I gave bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, water to the thirsty.
I brought the deceased who could not afford transportation to the cemetary;
I buried him who had no son.
I furnished transportation for him who lacked it.
I respected my father, and pleased my mother, rearing up their chldren.

‘This basic list… is further expanded as time goes by to include such statements as, ‘I was one who was father to the orphan, and who gave aid to the widow’ (Sethe 1928: 79); ‘I was friend to the lowly; well-disposed to the one who had nothing. I helped the hungry who had no goods, and was generous to those in misery’ (Sethe 1928: 80-81); ‘Whoever was lost, I put back on the road, I rescued the one who was robbed’ (Sethe 1928: 7).

Inasmuch as such statements appear consistently in tomb inscriptions and funerary stela over millenia and are also alluded to in legal stipulations, judicial documents, and wisdom-texts, one may refer to these tenets of ma’at as being in a real sense, ‘canonical’ – precepts to which all segments of ancient Egyptian soceity were expected to adhere.

It should be pointed out that literature of this type – used to educate scribes and employees of the royal administration – is attested for millenia; and this fact suggests that such appeals on behalf of the needy, again, represented a widely held standard of morality, undoubtedly embodying the very requirements of ma’at [Justice].

More moral texts from ancient Egypt:

The Instructions of Amenemope (c. 1300-1000 BC)

Do not jeer at a blind man nor tease a dwarf,
Neither interfere with the condition of a cripple;
Do not taunt a man who is in the hand of God [insane],
Nor scowl at him if he errs.
Man is clay and straw,
And God is his potter;
He overthrows and he builds daily,
He impoverishes a thousand if He wishes.
He makes a thousand into examiners,
When He is in His hour of life.
How fortunate is he who reaches the West,
When he is safe in the hand of God.

Do not expose a widow if you have caught her in the fields,
Nor fail to give way if she is accused.
Do not turn a stranger away your oil jar
That it may be made double for your family.
God loves him who cares for the poor,
More than him who respects the wealthy.

Also: The maxims of Vizier Ptah-hotep (c. 2200 BC)

Ancient Quotations: the golden rule in positive form

I’d heard that Jesus was the first to phrase the golden rule in its positive form, so I decided to look into it. There are, of course, many statements of the Golden Rule in its negative form. Some religions, like Buddhism, state it pretty much exclusively in negative form.

I am limiting myself to the more blatant expressions of the principle in antiquity. Undoubtedly, one can get a similar tenor if one looks at some passage as a whole. But what I wanted was an explicit recognition of the principle, specifically in its positive form. There are many pages on the internet that list different statements of the golden rule, but are unsatisfactory (to me) for the following reasons: 1) They don’t distinguish between negative and positive forms, 2) they include quotes from all time periods (who really cares if modern pagans or 15th century Sufi’s have the golden rule?) – I am interested in quotes that are pre-Christian or around the same time; and 3) they are often not sourced at all, or just plain made up.

Mo Tzu (5th – 4th cent. B.C. (From Mozi – Book 15 – ‘Love’ III):

“…the fa (model) of inclusively caring for each other and in interaction benefiting each other is to regard others’ states as though regarding one’s state, regard others’ families as though regarding one’s family, and regard other persons as though regarding one’s person .”

The Mahabharata Anusasana Parva 113.8 [~ 3rd cent. BC – 3rd cent. AD]

“Do not to others what you do not wish done to yourself; and wish for others too what you desire and long for yourself–this is the whole of Dharma; heed it well.”

Bhagavad Gita (6.32)

By comparison with himself, in all (beings)
Whoso sees the same, Arjuna,
Whether it be pleasure or pain,
He is deemed the supreme disciplined man.

[Buddhism & Hinduism are somewhat odd in regards to this issue, in terms of the ego being an illusion, and therefore the distinction between oneself and others also an illusion. Later, this would lead Mahayana Buddhism to put more emphasis on a more ‘positive’ form of action.]

Jesus (Mathew 7:12)

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”


So, it was at least not very common in the ancient world.


Quotations that didn’t make cut:

Leviticus 19:18 (5th century B.C.): “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” because it is immediately preceded by statement specifying “among your people.” Aristotle‘s “we should conduct ourselves toward others as we would have them act toward us,”  didn’t make it because he is referring to friends. Plato (The Laws, 11) didn’t make  it because, despite some translations, ie. Jowett’s, making it sound like a straightforward statement of the golden rule in the positive form, newer translations tend to be more like this: “In the next place our business transactions one with another will require proper regulation. The following will serve for a comprehensive rule:—as far as possible, no one shall touch my goods nor move them in the slightest degree, if he has in no wise at all got my consent; and I must act in like manner regarding the goods of all other men, keeping prudent mind.” This latter translation is both more narrowly defined, and not even in the positive form. [jhappolati has confirmed that this is the better translation].

Various other ancients are credited with giving the golden rule in positive form, but I have not been able to find any sources backing up those claims, and suspect they are not real: Zoroaster (628 – 551 B.C. – or perhaps as early as 11th or so B.C.) supposedly says: “That which is good for all and any one, for whomsoever – that is good for me… what I hold good for self, I should for all.” (Gathas, 43.1) – However, in the translation I looked at, there is no such line. Similarly Isocrates (b. 436 BC), Aristippus of Cyrene (b. 435 BC) are credited with stating the positive form of the golden rule, but I can find no evidence to support that. (Although, Isocrates does seem to employ the golden rule in a practical way: “Deal with weaker states as you would expect stronger states to deal with you”; “Conduct yourself toward your parents as you would have your children conduct themselves toward you”; “…give a just verdict, and prove yourselves to be for me such judges as you would want to have for yourselves,” etc.)

Once again, many stressed the negative golden rule, and for example Confucians often talked about the ethic of reciprocity, however as initially defined by Confucius at least, it was in negative form.

Reading the New Testament

Reading over the New Testament, here are various issues that make me skeptical. These aren’t intended to be some kind of scholarly critique – it’s based on simply reading the New Testament and noting down everything that seemed odd to me. Feel free to rebut.


Demon possession. There are various situations in which Jesus casts out demons, or heals people by apparently forgiving their sins, and also gives his disciples the ability to do so (apparently based also on their faith and prayer). Are we really supposed to believe that these people were demon possessed, or should we instead believe that 1st century people had no real medical knowledge and gave supernatural explanations for entirely natural conditions? It would be one thing if it perhaps happened very rarely, but it is constantly blamed, whether demons or ‘unclean spirits,’ etc. It becomes very clear that they blamed a lot on ‘unclean spirits.’ A very strange passage on devils is that of Mathew 12:43 – 45. Or take Mathew 17:14 – 18, where a boy falling into fire or water (epilepsy?) is apparently caused by a demon, (same story Luke 9:38-42), which Jesus casts out. There are many, many more of these. – Mark 1:23-27, Mark 1:32-34, Mark 1:39, Mark 3:11-15, Mark 5:2-13, Mark 6:7, Mark 6:13, Mark 9:17-27, Luke 4:41, Luke 6:18, Luke 7:21, Luke 8:2, Luke 8:27-33, Luke 9:1, Luke 11:14, Luke 11:24-26, Luke 13:11-16, Acts 8:7, Acts 10:38, Acts 19:12-16,

Also, where do these ‘unclean spirits’ come from? – from OT and NT: God sends them: Judges 9:23; 1 Samuel 16:14-16, 1 Samuel 16:23, 1 Samuel 18:10, 1 Samuel 19: 9; the NT doesn’t really say where they come from and are generally related to sickness. They don’t ever say they are sent by the devil. It seems that either God sends demons or people gain them by their own sins. In John 9:2-3, his disciple ask him if a blind man is blind because of his parents or his own sin, Jesus says neither, but that God’s power could be shown. So those were the thee options? Someone’s own sin, their parents sin, or to show God’s glory? – That would explain the other statements in the NT about faith being the cure for sickness, about forgiveness of sins and healings going together, about god being the one to send demons into people. Again with Lazarus, for the glory of God, John 11:4.

Apocalyptism. Jesus and his followers obviously believed that the world was coming to an end soon – within their own lifetimes (yes, I know there are other interpretations, but I don’t buy them). So: leaving of the family (disdaining the family too), leaving behind all wealth, not planning for the future, the downtrowdden of this world being uplifted, the powerful being destroyed, etc, etc (ie Luke 12:33; Mathew 6:34; Math. 8:22; Math. 10:37). The reason is because he thought the end was imminent. Ultimately this is why Christianity, as taught by Jesus, is not in fact livable – it is living as if you are living in the age of an apocalypse. Jesus is constantly talking about the evil, corrupt ‘generation’ and how things will come to pass on this generation. It is clear that an apocalyptic judgement is expected to arrive on the current generation – see for example Mathew 23: 23 – 39, also, all of Mathew 24 (also Math. 10:23), Mark 9:1, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32, Paul thinks the end is near too: 1 Cor 7:29, 1 Cor. 10:11, Phil. 1:10, Phil. 4:10, 1 Thess. 3:13, 1 Thess. 4:15-17, 1 Thess. 5:23, 2 Thess. 2:2-9, 1 Timothy 6:14. And other letter writers: Hebrews 1:1-2, Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 10:37, James 5:8, 1 Peter 1:20; 1 Peter 4:7; Jude 18. In 1 John 2:18, the author knows the end is near because of all the antichrists ( also: 1 John 2:28, 1 John 4:3). The author of 2 Peter (3:4-10) acknowledges peoples asking about why the imminent return isn’t so imminent – he tries to cover up by means of what must be the beginning of the attempt to make sense of the lack of an apocalypse – that to God, a day can be a thousand years (besides being an obvious attempt at explaining away, it really only covers those passages which speak exclusively of ‘days’, but in reality many of the passages were merely phrased as the end being imminent, or of the end being within the lifetime of those who were listening, or the followers of Jesus, or of the ‘generation’, once we add those together with literal days, it is clear the end was supposed to be very soon – trying to de-literalize ‘days’, only makes the combined statements contradictory). Paul (1 Thess. 4:13-18) also shows another, completely different, approach to grappling with the fact that some have died before Jesus’ return – which is that those who have died are ‘asleep’ and when god returns for the ones still alive, the ‘asleep’ will arise first. This fits into the other strands of thought at the time as well (ie. other apocalyptic Jewish sects), and similarities in Jesus’ and his followers thoughts to theirs.

The fake genealogies. Fictitious descent, combined with the fact that Jesus is not even supposed to be the son of Joseph, since Mary was miraculously impregnated. Also, the genealogies are clearly stylized, and, amusingly, Luke’s goes back to Adam. They should have listened to Paul’s advice: “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies” (1 Timothy 1:4).

The Nativity. The whole of the nativity section is obviously made up. Nothing about Jesus childhood appears in the earliest gospel, then Mathew and Luke tell very different versions. Along with all sorts of things within them that don’t really make sense, like dates, locations, etc. It also apparently endorses the efficacy of astrology. The whole story of the magi, the shepherds, the star, the massacre of the innocents, seems unlikely to be anything other than made up. It is also has many elements that turn up in other attempts to add extraordinary events to the birth of famous ancients. For example, the story of Alexander’s being the son of a human mother and a god who appeared to her. Or, the Buddha, whose mother had a dream of a bodhisattva who appeared as a white elephant, who touched her side, and she became pregnant. Other elements are in common as well, such as wonders in the sky (very common in all sorts of portent myths), sages coming and making prophecies (buddha). Or various other pagan stories of gods impregnating women. And then, strangest of all, I think, is the fact that the gospels themselves present the family of Jesus as either thinking he was crazy, or being skeptical, or trying to prevent him from speaking – and not just his family, but his hometown being skeptical – which if Jesus’ birth and childhood were really so dazzling, one would think would be a strange reaction. Given the nativity stories, how could his family have responded in this way? Both Joseph and Mary have messengers from God speak to them, as well as the miraculous events that they witnessed at his birth and otherwise. (Similarly, later stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood would continue inflating the story and adding more elements ripped from other stories, the addition of Jesus’ twin – ie. it occurred to some that God impregnating Mary had obvious parallels to Greek myths of Zeus impregnating human mothers, and the human husband also impregnating their wives – therefore, twin sons, one the son of God, the other a mortal man. This same element was added to some Christ stories).

The Crucifixion and Resurrection. The stories bear clear signs of growing in the telling, so that we can’t really tell what, if anything, the resurrection is based on. As for the crucifiction, are we really to believe that when Jesus was crucified the sky went dark and corpses broke out of their graves and wandered around the city, as well as the temple veil ripped in half – and all these things happened, yet nobody recorded them but the Christians, and moreover, all these things happened, and the Roman soldiers reported to the Jewish leaders that an angel had appeared and frozen them and freed Jesus, and they also just stayed silent? And apparently not one of them converted? How come these stories are never attributed to anyone? Clearly, these stories were heavily fictionalized, like his childhood was.

Message poorly prepared. Why was it that God was supposed to have spent all this time preparing Jews and the world for Jesus coming, and yet when he came, the disciples had to twist Jewish scriptures to fit their view of Jesus. God somehow spectacularly failed to clearly prepare his coming, so that Jews still don’t understand how Christians twisted the OT into alignment with their new revelation.

Growth of the story of Jesus. Why does the story of Jesus grow so much in the telling? The later the books, the more unbelievable things they have in them – the nativity, the resurrection scenes. In Mark, the only part of the story of the resurrection is the women being told the grave is empty and leaving and not telling anyone. And that is it.

People failing to realize Jesus was God, or even just not crazy. Despite all the amazing things that supposedly happened in the gospel, John the baptist, just before his death, still had to ask if Jesus was the one (Luke 7:19), or if there was another, even though he had seen the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus (in the form of a dove) and declare Jesus his son. His own family thought he was crazy, or didn’t believe him (Mark 3:21, John 7:3-5), and neither did his friends (Mark 6:4-6). Which is especially strange once one takes into account that Mary and Joseph were supposedly talked to by Angels, etc., and makes their doubt more than a little odd. Also, his own townsmen from Nazareth didn’t buy it (ex. Mark 6:3-4, John 6:42). It is interesting that the skepticism of his family and townsmen is expressed in the two books which did not contain nativity stories – almost as if the two elements don’t fit together. Also, consider Jesus being betrayed by Judas – was Judas not there when all those miracles were being produced? If someone was actually witnessing all that, I don’t really believe he would have acted as he supposedly did. Especially if he was actually listening to what Jesus was, supposedly, saying. Then we have various passages like Mark 6:52 in which people did not understand the miracle of the loaves, because ‘their hearts were hardened’ – basically in Mark the lack of understanding has to be explained by people just being incredibly stupid or having ‘hard hearts.’

NT writers and characters believed obviously wrong things. Jesus (and this is a problem because Jesus is, supposedly, God – and can read peoples minds, know their sins, heal them, know his own future, know God’s, that is, his own, plans, etc), for example, apparently believed Jonas was actually inside a whale for three days. Jesus also apparently believed in the story of Noah (Luke 17:27, Mathew 24:37). He also acknowledges that God destroyed Sodom and uses it as an example of how things will be when the son of man returns (Luke 17:26-30). Apparently Jesus also believes the creation account of Genesis – in Mark 10, he says ‘But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female.’ As mentioned in the ‘Demon Possession’ section, Jesus and other NT writers clearly believed that ‘unclean spirits’ were responsible for sicknesses, and those sicknesses were to be healed by casting out those spirits. Paul bases actually important pieces of his theology on the existence of Adam and Eve. In Romans 5:12-14, Paul says that ‘As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin’ – he is referring to Adam, but since Adam didn’t exist, this doesn’t make any sense. It’s clear ‘evil’ is a natural aspect of evolutionary history. He then says that death reigned ‘from Adam to Moses’ apparently because of this sin, even though of course, death has ocurred for billions of years. Unfortunately for Paul, his theology of Jesus as the new Adam is bound up in his faulty history. Once again Paul is obviously influenced by his literal understanding of Adam, when he says, in 1 Corinthians 11:7-9, that man is the image of God, but woman is the image of the man, and that man was not created for woman, but woman was for man, and that man is not of woman, but woman is of man. In 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 he says ‘For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,’ and also claims that death came through Adam. Again, in 1 Cor. 15:45, there is ‘The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit’ – that is, Christ is the first to be transformed into his spiritual body. In 1 Timothy 2:13: ‘Adam was formed first, then Eve’ (also: 1 TImothy 2:14). Peter also believed in Noah (1 Peter 3:20, 2 Peter 2:5). Hebrews 11:28-32 lists a whole bunch of not real things that were accomplished by faith in the OT, and, in Jude 14-15, they talk about Enoch ‘the seventh from Adam’ and his prophecy, which is especially interesting, because this writer obviously considered the Book of Enoch scriptural, and this book did have quite a bit of influence in those days, but was not ultimately included in western Bibles, despite also being considered canonical by many church fathers

Faith. It’s amazing how many things can apparently be done if you just have faith – you can be healed, saved, walk on water, get what you pray for if you just ask, etc. Too bad this doesn’t actually happen (for example: Mathew 17:19-20, Mark 9:23, Mark 11:23-24, Luke 17:6, John 14:12-14, John 16:23).

Healing by faith. Why does Jesus seem to say that it is people’s faith that heals them, or the forgiving of sins that makes them better? For example, Mathew 9:22, Mathew 17:19-20, Mark 5:34, Luke 8:48 (‘Thy faith hath made thee whole’), apparently it is sin that causes sickness: after healing a man Jesus says, ‘sin no more, lest a worse thing come to thee’ (John 5:14-15); faith healing is better than physicians, apparently (2 Chronicles 16:12); Regular praying to heal the sick (28:8-9, James 5:14-15). Also, people are healed just by touching garments, shadows, hankerchiefs of Jesus and his follower’s possession.

What can Christians do? What signs reveal a believer? Apparently that they will ‘speak with new tongues,’ handle serpents, ‘drinking any deadly thing’ will not hurt them, and they will have the ability to heal the sick by laying on hands (Mark 16:17-19). According to Luke 10:17-19, devils will be subject to his followers, they will have power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and ‘nothing shall by any means hurt [them].’

Encouraging credulousness and condemning the wise.  Luke 10:21, Romans 14:23 – ‘He that doubteth is damned’; ‘For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.’ – 1 Corinthians 3:18-20, and 1 Cor. 1:19-1:31, 1 Cor. 2:1-2, 1 Cor 2:1-5, 1 Cor. 10:5 discourage any freethinking; 2 John 1:10. Also James 1:6-8. This is also in the OT, for example, see Deut. 13:1-3, in which people are told that if there are prophecies that turn out correctly, but are used by the prophet as arguing for worshipping another god, then the prophecy was fulfilled to test the faith and love of the people towards God. This is a classic example of leaving absolutely no room for any result that doesn’t go your own way. Paul in general stresses faith over reason and empiricism (ie. 2 Corinthians 5:7). Same for the rest (See 1 John 2:27 and 1 John 4:6 on Christians basically having a supernatural ability to distinguish truth from falseness). Disdain for secular learning (Romans 1:21-22, (1 Corinthians 1:18-20, 3:18-20, 2 Timothy 2:14, 1 Timothy 6:3-4) See section on faith healing for passages proclaiming efficacy of faith healing over secular medicine. See also section condemning those with different beliefs and the rationale behind it.

Preventing rational thought. Above quotes and more that prevent any kind of rational debate because truth is revealed through faith, not reason. Also, people who disagree are ‘antichrists’, etc. God has ‘deluded’ the minds of those who hold wrong views (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11; 1 Timothy 4:1). (Celsus, a 2nd century critic of Christianity thought the main tenets of Christianity was “Do not ask questions, just believe” and “Thy faith will save thee”).

Shunning/Control. It is interesting to see all the evidence of methods of cult-like control in the letters of the NT. It is interesting that smaller churches of today, eg Jehovah’s witnesses and other churches, even the larger churches that are perhaps more fundamentalist, use those passages heavily to control their members thinking and behaviour. It seems that the early church was a very manipulative cult in the same way that cults are now, exerting huge control over members lives – remember, everything was even communal at the beginning. It was an probably an extremely manipulative group. As cults grow, they lose that aspect, especially as they come to dominate a culture and enter government. Then there is the extreme emphasis on faith. If you aren’t healed or can’t do something incredible, or have doubts, or questions, etc, it is primarily a problem with you, because it is your lack of faith that is the problem. (By the way – a good book for giving a vivid impression of how cults suck people in: Moonwebs).

Persecution-complex and built in intolerance. All the talk of the blessedness of being persecuted, the division of families, not having anything to do with non-Christians, the division of everything into us/them, seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy, on being persecuted and also persecuting others, christians are told to leave their family, and that families will be torn apart because of Jesus (Luke 21:26-8, among others, Luke 12:51). Because the only way to be saved is through Jesus, it is implicit that those who do not believe in Jesus are rejecting God and everything good. People who hear and do not believe are deliberately rejecting the good for the sake of evil. Why is Jesus always calling people ‘generation of vipers,’ etc? Frequently condeming groups, whole generations, cities, etc to hell for not accepting him (for example, Mark 6: 11). Jesus’ language against his opponents is often disturbing and no wonder that it led to great intolerance in Christian history, (eg. John 8:44). Then there is the anti-Judaism that grows from the gospels and continues. There will come a time ‘that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.’ (Acts 3:23); The gods that the gentiles worship are devils (1 Cor. 10:20-21). Christians are told to keep separate from nonbelievers (1 Cor. 6:14-17). People who deny Jesus and his father are antichrists (1 John 2:22). Christians are of God, and the whole world is in wickedness (1 John 5:19 – this is just one of many like this that I haven’t bothered including, but also 2 John 1:7-10 in which nonbelievers are again called antichrists and deceivers). Also, don’t associate with non-believers. (This all fits into the cult-like behaviour of early Christianity).

Fulfillments of supposed OT prophecies – I don’t know much about this issue, but it sure seems like they’re reaching, especially when Jews didn’t and still don’t see how they’re reading that stuff into the scriptures.

Generally implausible miracle stories. The feeding of thousands, walking on water, the withering of the fig tree, etc. – these do not inspire confidence in the gospel writers commitment to historical reality. Also, they seem often to mirror the miracles of prophets, but outshine them (ie. less bread fed more people), or to have a metaphorical meaning that relates to narrative themes or contemporary events.

Difference between synoptics and John (and divergencies among synoptics). Why is the Jesus potrayed so differently? One aspect of this is that it is only by John that we get Jesus straight out claiming to be who earlier Christians, like in the synoptics, had only understood him to be. Then there were the different conceptions of Jesus among each gospel. As well as the connection of Christ to Judaism and the Law, salvation, etc. Clearly the events and characterizations are being modified to suit different purposes: for example, the portrayals of crucifiction – in Mark, Jesus is portrayed as despairing, whereas in Luke he is self-confident in his end (perhaps comparable to the very different ways in which Socrates was portrayed by Plato and Xenophon).

Hell and condemnation. If one denies that it exists, that seems to be very contradicted by the NT. There are really very many ‘fire and brimstone’ passages in the NT – in fact, Jesus talks about it much more than anyone else. He has clearly taken in the ideas of hell and apocalyptism current at the time, and through him they became central in Christianity, whereas they have never been in Judaism except in certain historical periods where they had more influence (as in that time). Jesus is constantly condeming people to hell, etc. – among many other passages, Mathew 13:41-42, Mathew 18:8-9, Mathew 25:41, Mathew 25:46, John 5:28-29, also most people are going to hell: Mathew 7:13 – 14, Luke 13:23-24, which has also been the main view of Christianity until recently, Mark 9:43-48, Frequently condeming groups, whole generations, cities, etc to hell for not accepting him – ex. Mark 6: 11, Luke 10:10-15, a graphic description of the rich man in hell – Luke 16:20-29, Luke 12:5, anyone who doesn’t believe in the ‘name of the only begotten Son of God’ is condemned, John 3:18, John 3:36. See also 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, Revelations 14:10-11, 20:10, 20:14-15.

Telling parables so that people will not understand and will go to Hell, and predestination. Jesus tells parables so that people won’t understand and will go to hell (Mark 4:11-12, Luke 8:10). God hardens hearts so people do evil and go to hell (Romans 16-25) – otherwise called predestination (also seen in John 6:64-65, John 12:40, Romans 8:29-39; Romans 9:11-23; Acts 13:48; 2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:4-5,11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians; 2:11-12; Jude 4; 1 Peter 1:2); God also sends demons and sickness to people to show his own glory (John 9:2-3)

Women. 1 Corinthians 11:3-15 ‘The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the women is man’ 1 Corinthians 11:3; Man is the glory of God, but women is the glory of the man, and women is of man, not man of woman, and man was not created for woman, but woman was created for man (1 Corinthians 11:7-9); Women are to submit to husbands as to Lords, man is head of the wife like Christ is head of the church, women are subject to husbands in everything Ephesians 5:22-24). Also: Colossians 3:18; also 1 Peter 3:1; Titus 2:5, 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 14. Modern apologists apply various strategies to get around this, none of which are plausible. Christians should probably just figure out whether they believe it, or whether many parts of the NT can just be ignored.

Ethical teachings that are not possible if people actually want to live in the world. Jesus’ teachings, ranging from ones that seem to assume the end of the world was coming soon, to telling people to leave their families, and moral teachings that simply don’t really work, but sound good. So, the teachings really can’t be taken literally, but as a sort of symbolic point to strive to, if you actually plan to live in the world. When Jesus says to sell all you have and give it to the poor (Luke 12:33), to take no thought for the future, plus all his anti-family rhetoric and apocalyptic teachings, it is clearly not practical and can only make sense on the interpretation that Jesus and his followers thought that the end of the world was imminent. One must leave everything to be a follower of Jesus (Luke 14:33).

Family. Although Christianity is generally seen as more accomodating to worldly family life, than say, Buddhism, which finds real fulfillment only in abandoning regular life and giving up sex, marriage, attachment to family, actually Jesus teaches something very similar. He teaches the preferability of giving up sex, marriage, and family to follow God (ex. Mathew 19:29, Mark 10:29-30). Jesus in several places clearly rejects his own family in favour of the community of believers and tells others to do the same; in Luke 8:20-21, when a follower wants to bury his father, he is told ‘let the dead bury the dead’, when another wants to bid farewell to his family his told anyone who looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God. Luke 9:59-62, a man must ‘hate’ his family if he is to become a disciple of Jesus, Luke 14:26, one must leave everything to be a follower of Jesus (Luke 14:33); leaving your family will bring rewards in this life and the next (Luke 18:29-30). According to Paul (1 Cor. 7:1-9), it is preferable to never marry, but to avoid fornication it is better to marry, as he says: ‘better to marry than to burn.’ (Other passages, of course, tell people to be faithful to and love their spouses, that it is God that brings together husband and wife, and that the marriage bed is holy. And, according to Paul, leading apostles were married and it was considered normal.)

Other odd things that struck me. Why does Jesus do things like spit on a blind mans eyes to heal them? (Mark 8:23). Or stick his fingers in a deaf mans ears and then spit and touch his tongue? But then, when that didn’t give him quite clear enough vision, Jesus put his hands on his eyes, which did the trick (Mark 8:23-25). It seems likely to be a metaphor – probably the slow realization (in the book of Mark) of who Jesus is (ie. in the very next story, Jesus leads the disciples in a similar step-wise fashion to recognize him as the Christ – after having been blind to it, along with everyone else, up until this point in Mark. though it is still not the end of their discovering what he is about, and the metaphor must be for the whole process until they truly see, only after he is dead). In which case, it would illustrate the willingness to create stories to illustrate a point. See also John 9:6-7.

Zecharias is struck dumb for questioning the angel about his son (John the Baptist), it is pretty unclear why the angel thought that was appropriate (Luke 1:18-20), but then a few passages later when Mary questions an angel, nothing happens. John the baptist as a fetus leapt in his mothers womb when he heard the name of Jesus (Luke 1:44). Jesus increases in stature and favour with God, despite being God (Luke 2:52). Why is Jesus’ power to heal people described as virtue going out of him? (Luke 6:19, and elsewhere), and that he can actually feel it leaving him; what is this virtue? Is he able to heal because of his goodness?

Apparently not only is astrology endorsed in the nativity story, but Jesus says that return of the son of man will be presaged by ‘signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars.’ (Luke 21:25).

When Ananias sell a possession and doesn’t give all the money to the church, Paul somehow knows and both Ananias and his wife die, at separate times while Paul is confronting them (Acts 5:1-11).

An angel of the Lord ‘smote’ Herod because ‘he gave not God the glory; and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost’ (Acts 12:23), or Acts 13:8-11, where Paul and the Holy Ghost blind Elymas, the sorcerer, for his unrighteousness. Does God still do this stuff, or just back then? (At the same time as he was sending demons into people to make them sick, so as to show his glory?)

The story in Acts 28:3-8 of Paul being bit by a snake is interesting in that it shows, if true, just how credulous people were.

Strange story in Jude 9: 9 about Michael the archangel arguing with the devil over the body of Moses.

Religiosity and charity

Perhaps my last post on charity…

[See my posts on global charity, four modern Asian countries and charity, and a history of Asian Charity]

A worldwide Gallup poll: “Worldwide, Highly Religious More Likely to Help Others

An obvious question is whether this time and money is being put into religious organizations rather than, say, helping poor people. But first one should note that the religious show more strongly in the ‘helping  a stranger’ category as well, which is unlikely to be affected by such considerations.

This paper, for the U.S. at least, shows that the greater charitability of the religious is not just a result of religious-giving, but in fact religious give more to non-religious charities as well.

It’s interesting, though, that inter-country, I don’t see religiousity vs. non-religiosity playing a strong role in levels of charity – see my post on the world giving index. Perhaps there is a correlation there as well, but one would have to put all the info together to see it. Looking at the top countries for example, they are not more religious than others I think. for example, Australia, one of the most charitable, apparently has about the lowest church attendance in the world (though a majority consider themselves Christian). At the same time, I would assume that the religious in Australia are more charitable than the non-religious.

Edit: As Johann Happolati points out in the comments, this inter-country difference is undoubtedly driven largely by wealth. This is also quite clear if you read the post on the World Giving Index, which has a graph showing a strong correlation between gdp and ‘wellbeing’ and charitability between countries.

If it makes anyone feel better, in the U.S. at least, religious people have more social pathologies.

Charity in 4 modern Asian countries

Here is a study on 4 modern Asian countries and charity, which all happen to have different religions: India (Hindu), Thailand (Buddhist), Indonesia (Muslim), and the Philippines (Christian). [See my posts on the history of Asian charitycontemporary global charity, and religiosity and charity]

“Asian Philanthropy: A Four-Country Study” (2002)

Perhaps the most important finding is that in all four countries, almost allhigh to middle income households made philanthropic gifts in the preceding twelve months.


Another similarity between all four countrie s is their uniformly high rate of giving to religious organisations.

Even when expressed in PPP, Indians in SES classes A and B give far smaller amounts than do Indonesians, while Thais and Filipinos are far in front of both (in that order).

The generosity ratio shows a similar pattern to the other data. High and middle income Indians are not as generous as people from similar social strata in the three Southeast Asian countries. Indonesians, however, turn out to be marginally more generous than Filipinos, while the apparent benevolent bent of Thais is shown to be less dramatic than the PPP measures suggest.

Indians give the highest proportion to religion, followed by
Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand least, less than half the proportion given by Indians. When we look at giving to other voluntary organisations, India is a particularly marked exception. This is true not only in amounts given, but in the numbers who give (the giving rate). For the three countries in Southeast Asia, the giving rate is very high, as high as or higher than in Northern countries. But in India the giving rate is dramatically lower than the other three. Putting it another way – barely half of the high to middle income Indians in our sample support other voluntary organisations. Or, to put it in a third way, almost one half of Indians from this socia l stratum that support religious
organisations, do not support other voluntary organisations.

Except for India, there are relatively few people who do not give at all. The most fruitful approach in those countries will be to increase the amount given by those who already give. In India there are many who give to religious organisations but do not give to other voluntary organisations.