18 December 2006

Christians' interest in other people

(copy of a letter)

I always notice it when other people appear to agree with something I have said, and wonder what they may be using it to reinforce, which is almost certainly something I don’t agree with.

You seemed to endorse the idea that Christians pretended to be interested in other people, and then you said that you did not mean this as a distinction from any other group of people, but that nobody was interested in other people. Well, of course, first of all you have to say what sort of interest you are talking about. People are, mostly, very interested in other people but in a negative and destructive way, which is usually rationalised as benevolent or altruistic.

However, Christianity is, at least in principle, preferable to the modern belief in society/socialism/collectivism/etc., which advocates only attitudes and ways of going on which are totally incompatible with being on a higher level. It is true that pre higher level I never thought of other people as very important, in the way that you are apparently supposed to. But, without paying any attention to it, I never cultivated any of the common forms of meanness or dishonesty, which seem to be positively favoured in the modern ideology.

If you can’t think of anything better, cultivating generosity towards people is, at least vaguely, higher level. But, of course, if it depends on a set of specific beliefs and not on having had a higher level (or, perhaps, cultivating some higher level realistic ideas pre-higher level) it is vulnerable to confusion with socialism and other forms of belief in society.

Christianity seemed to be advocating some form of post-higher-level psychology, and that would seem to be a bit better than nothing. Injunctions to generosity could, since the underlying motivation was likely to be very weak and conflicted, easily be used to produce guilt and repression, but those things are not so definitively anti-higher-level as the attitudes that believers in society seem to identify with.