Addressing Issues of Humanity Within ADF
Altruism: unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others (Merriam-Webster).
ADF is an organization that addresses the issues of humanity in a few different ways. The most obvious way that we attempt to address the issues of humanity is the work we do with community service. Within ADF, Groves are required to complete some sort of efforts within their community at least quarterly. This work can take many different forms, but often it is devoted to something that would help ease the suffering or hardships of others, such as volunteering in a homeless shelter, collecting non-perishable items for a charity food pantry, or even picking up litter in a local park. This form of altruism is something that we don’t take lightly, and I think requiring our official Groves to undertake these actions shows our devotion to helping the suffering of others, even when they are not members of our organization.
Our vision statement and values also give us some additional guidance on areas that we emphasize to try to address evils such as ignorance. Our vision statement says that our public rituals will help us provide an open, public, family-friendly Pagan community (Ar nDraiocht Fein). By providing these events that are open to the public, we are allowing people to gain knowledge and information that they may not have access to otherwise. We are also working to provide awareness of our practices to the general population. These public activities help alleviate ignorance that people may have about ADF and Pagans in general. Additionally, our values emphasize respect, hospitality, and service, not only with the Kindred but to our community and others (Ar nDraiocht Fein). While these actions not be required like we see for Groves, the importance of these practices is shown in the governing documents that are the very basis of all ADF actions and decisions. Additionally, we encourage members to understand the nine virtues, which provide a framework for behavior by encouraging traits such as integrity, courage, and moderation.
Two World Religions Comparison
The care for the issues of humanity is also present in most of the major world religions, including both Hinduism and Judaism. Within Hinduism, the concept of karma both encourages people to behave in a positive manner, but also explains why suffering may exist. This concept explains that good deeds and actions lead to a positive life, while misdeeds and harmful actions lead to negative effects (Berkely Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs). This is a fairly straight forward concept, but in its simplicity, karma encourages people to treat their fellow humans with kindness and respect, which includes aiding those who may be suffering in some way. It also includes an explanation for why someone may find themselves in a situation where they are suffering.
Judaism addresses the existence of suffering directly in the Torah, when god promised to protect the Israelites as long as they followed the rules of the Torah. However, it also indicates that they would be punished if they did not follow these teachings. Therefore, suffering is caused because the Israelites did not uphold their end of the bargain (MJL). This idea has been widely discussed and debated within the Jewish community, but this question has gone on much longer than it should already.
Altruism in Indo-European Lore
Hints about hospitality and caring for other humans is speckled across mythology, but it’s often done in a way that is easy to miss. For example, in the Odyssey the hero Odysseus encounters a Cyclops and asks if they share “themis” which was a type of social law on how to interact with strangers (Neusner and Chilton). Because the Cyclops does not care for the strangers on his island, instead trying to eat them, Odysseus knows that this Cyclops is not an honorable being. This is a brief mention, but from this interaction we can hypothesize that in ancient Greece there was a general care for the well-being for other humans, and efforts put in place to address the suffering of others.
The cause of suffering can also be found speckled throughout mythology. For example, Prometheus is chained to a stone to have his liver pecked out over and over. This suffering is allowed to occur as his punishment for betraying the Olympians. Again, it’s a brief example, but it shows that his suffering was caused by his own actions.
While there is no way for any religion to fix all of the suffering and evils that are experienced by humankind, I do appreciate the efforts that are put in to at least care for our fellow humans. There is always more that we can do, but I believe the we have a solid foundation for our work, and a good start the aiding our fellow humans.
Ar nDraiocht Fein. ADF.org. 2016. 2019. <https://www.adf.org/>.
Berkely Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. Karma (Hinduism). n.d. November 2019. <https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/essays/karma-hinduism>.
Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. n.d. 2019. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary>.
MJL. Suffering and Evil: Jewish Solutions. n.d. November 2019. <https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/suffering-and-evil-jewish-solutions/>.
Neusner, Jacob and Bruce Chilton. Altruism in World Religions. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2005.