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- Jonathan Lockwood Huie (jlh @sail7.com)

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

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Kindness and Charity

Kindness and charity are the earthly building blocks that support all the world's religions.

Every Christian knows the story of the Good Samaritan and recognizes that the overarching theme of Jesus' teaching is loving and caring for all people.

You have heard that it was said,
"Love your neighbor and hate your enemy."
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
- Matthew 5:43-44

Charity (Zakat - giving to the needy) is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Most chapters of the Quran begin, "In the name of God the Compassionate." Therefore, in Islam, as in other religions, one would best emulate God by being compassionate.

Compassion is a central value - perhaps the central value of Buddhism.

A generous heart, kind speech,
and a life of service and compassion
are the things which renew humanity.
- The Buddha

Compassion is also a central value in Judaism, Hinduism, and the world's other major religions.

Each of the major religions, and also the major philosophical systems of thought, such as the ancient Greek, include expressions of the Golden Rule in some form.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.
- Luke 6:31 (the "Golden Rule")

Does this mean that everyone who claims membership in an organized religion is compassionate and generous? Obviously, it doesn't. From the Crusades to Nazi Germany to 9/11 to some of today's hate-filled political rhetoric, some terrible things have been done in the name of religion.

However, compassion, kindness, and generosity are not dead. For each of the many highly public cases in which cruelty, or just indifference, is committed in the name of religion, there are a hundred kind and generous souls working within their community churches to promote kindness and improve the lives of their neighbors and the lives of strangers around the world.

The worst sin toward our fellow creatures
is not to hate them,
but to be indifferent to them:
that's the essence of inhumanity.
- George Bernard Shaw

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