Two hundred and ninety-six

Good deeds in religion

As I’ve stated before, me and organized religion have not always seen eye to eye.  I grew up Anglican and went to church as a child, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become disillusioned with the concept.  People like the amazing pastor and his wife at the Toronto Alliance Church and my friend Andrew and his wife give me hope.  But then people like my university roommate who constantly told me I was going to hell because I didn’t believe exactly what she believed (even though she was cheating on her tests, lying all the time and being a general hypocrite and I was studying hard and being a good girl) shoot all those hopes down.  We need to be tolerant and respectful to each other, no matter what religion.  I hate that often organized religion (not always, as shown through lots of amazing people like those I mentioned above or my grandmother) is an exclusive club that doesn’t allow the option of other religions’ beliefs.  No one can know for sure what happens to us when we die, and my logical brain can’t accept that there is one right answer.

What I do love about organize religion, though, is the morals (and support) that come with it.  Good deeds play a major factor in religion and it is mandatory to be kind to your neighbour.  We need more of that thinking in our world.

Here are a few religions and a very brief  sum up of how I understand good deeds play a role.  If I am wrong or you would like to add anything, please comment and let me know.  As I said above, I am by no means an expert on organized religion.

Christianity

Christians believe that although good deeds by themselves will not bring salvation (only through Jesus Christ), it is through actions that the word of the Lord is shown.

“My brothers, what use is it for a man to say he has faith when he does nothing to show it? Can that faith save him? Suppose a brother or a sister is in rags with not enough food for the day, and one of you says, ‘Good luck to you, keep yourselves warm, and have plenty to eat’, but does nothing to supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is in itself a lifeless thing.” (James 2:14-17).

“Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18).

More quotes at surfinthespirit.com.  As the same site puts it: “Kind acts are our greatest testimony for our Lord and Savior”.

Judaism

In Judaism, the purpose of the Torah is to teach how to act correctly.  Whereas Christians believe that salvation only comes from faith in Jesus Christ, Jews see belief in God as a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for a Jewish life – that they must live their life in God’s ways (ie. doing good deeds). (from Wikipedia)  A good deed in Judaism is casually referred to as a Mitzvah (can also refer to any of the 613 commandments that Jews are obligated to observe or any Jewish religious obligation). (jewfaq.org)

“What you do not like, do not do to your friend. The rest explains it, go and complete it entirely.” (the Talmud)

BeingJewish.com explains that  every person is at the centre of a balanced scale and whereas a sin will tip the world towards negativity, every good deed tips the scale so that the world is in a favorable state of goodness.  Your every action is important – you must keep doing good deeds to keep the world in a positive state.  The good deeds are the Commandments of the Torah.

Jews have a mandate to improve the world they live in, tikkun olam, acheived through the performance of good deeds. (judaism.about.com)

Islam

In the Islamic religion, good deeds are the “second most important and necessary deed after the knowledge of faith.” (questionsonislam.com)  Good deeds are rewarded by Allah to everyone, but only those who are Muslim will be rewarded more long-term in this present life and in the eternal life Hereafter.  Good deeds must be done “purely for the pleasure of Allah and not out of self-conceit to seek appreciation or praise from people.” (wefound.org)

A person will be rewarded for his good or bad deed according to the Prophet Mohammed:

“Your Lord, Who is blessed and exalted, is most merciful.  If someone intends to do a good deed but does not do it, a good deed will be recorded for him.  And if he does do it, (a reward of) ten to seven hundred or many more times (the reward of the good deed), will be recorded for him.  And if someone intends to do a bad deed but does not do it, a good deed will be recorded for him.  And if he does do it, a bad deed will be recorded against him or God will wipe it out.” (islamreligion.com)

Muslims also believe in the “Day of Resurrection”, Yawm al-Qiyāmah, in which all mankind will be judged on their good and bad deeds.  Good deeds like prayer and charity will be rewarded with entry into Heaven. (Wikipedia)

Buddhism 

Not to do any evil,
To cultivate good,
To purify one’s mind,
This is the teaching of the Buddhas. 

(Shakyamuni in the Dhammapada)

Good deeds are central to Buddhist beliefs.  The performance of goods deed, or ‘acts of merit’ purifies and cleanses the mind.  It brings happiness to the doer both in this world and the hereafter.  Every good deed produces credit which can be kept or transfered to others (living or dead).  The accumulation of merit can open doors and provide success in whatever venture you choose.  The Buddha taught ten meritorious deeds to gain a happy, peaceful life and develop knowledge and understand.  They are:

  • Charity
  • Morality
  • Mental culture
  • Reverence or respect
  • Service in helping others
  • Sharing merits with others
  • Rejoicing in the merits of others
  • Preaching and teaching the Dhamma
  • Listening to the Dhamma
  • Straightening one’s views

They benefit the doer and others are well.  In the Dhammapada, the Buddha taught:

‘Should a person perform good,
He should do it again and again;
He should find pleasure therein;
For blissful is the accumulation of good.’
‘Think not lightly of good, saying,
‘It will not come near to me’?
Even by the falling of drops a water-jar is filled.
Likewise the wise man, gathering little by little,
Fills himself with good.’

Info from: “The Significance of Transference of Merits to the Departed” (budsas.org); “Leading a Buddhist Life” (buddhistdoor.com); “Ten Meritorious and Ten Evil Actions” (budsas.org).

Still doing good deeds…

Although I’m talking about big issues the past couple of days on the blog, I’m still doing good deeds and looking for ways to help out.  I’ve given change (and sometimes bills) to those who ask me for it.  I spent twenty minutes talking to a lady on the street who seemed very lonely and just wanted someone to listen to her and spend some time with her (I’m not sure if she was homeless, but she never asked for money, just my company).  I allowed a woman who was in a rush to go ahead of me in line at a store.  Small deeds that aren’t enough to write whole posts about, but I’m hoping it made the other person involved’s day a little brighter.

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