Mad for Compassion

I have of course been following and helping the viral spread of the Charter for Compassion. I am continuing to send it around to many different folk and groups. Response has been wonderful: people have linked it on their Facebook accounts, on their blogs, put it on email lists etc. THANK YOU ALL 🙂

I suppose I should have expected some negative response to even a Charter for Compassion. This is the modern world, after all right? This morning I found an article, Strong-armed into compassion. I was somewhat perplexed by it and having recently stated I was ‘so in love with Karen Armstrong’, I felt a little defensive. I just ‘had to’ comment. Being early morning i didn’t hold much back 🙂 Since one of the ideas of a blog is to share what i am doing, here it is:

… We cannot really call the Charter for Compassion, Karen Armstrong’s. A lot of other people were involved in its composition if not its origination.

I find it hard to see a theme in your article.

You restate some information from the Charter. You reduce the central message of Ms Armstrong’s work, the Charter and thousands of others to: “Armstrong is right to say that all religions teach that compassion is a virtue.” The reality is that compassion is the core of religion, its reason for being, the centre it revolves around, not a virtue like putting out the rubbish or helping old ladies across the road.

Your piece displays a cynicism, which you accept. However, you do not seem to have imagined what your own life and those around you would be like if, like the Charter and each and every major religion teaches, you practice the Golden Rule – not cynicism – each and every day.

There is nothing wrong with consciously focusing a piece of work on the Abrahamic traditions – especially as these three inform our culture the most and have been the religions most infected by violence and hatred.

Ms Armstrong is a religious scholar – does she have to extend her interest in the same measure to humanism or secularism? Does every humanist have to extend their interests into religion?

Next you do the classic straw man move: setting up a false dichotomy between compassion and truth. How does acting with compassion impinge upon “impartial assessment of the evidence.”? This amazing piece of false argument would have a big red X next to it in any first year philosophy assessment.

I have never read anywhere that Ms Armstrong reflects “the common view that those who have no religion also lack spirituality and moral values.” She has clearly stated the opposite on several occasions. Please provide references for your assertion here, and its relevance to the Charter, the subject of your article.

Of course, the use of the words “seeming” and “reflect” somewhat lets you off the hook here as you are not really asserting anything at all, which is really the essence of your article. What are you saying as an actual response to the Charter not to ideas already floating around in your head?

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One comment

  1. Mike · November 17, 2009

    What amazes me is how people who have never read her books and don’t have a clue for what she is about certainly do have strong opinions about what they think she represents. If you are a Christian and write a book you are immediately characterized and it is presumed that you are not to be taken seriously…..

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