Communal Kitchens/Langar
Even as a child, I loved performing 'seva' in the local Gurduwara/Mandir, where one is called upon to serve food as part of a ritual of communal dining. However, ever since I gave up my religious beliefs, I have had doubts about such participation. It is the religious nature of the whole thing I take an issue with. They expect you to chant 'satnaam waheguru' or 'jai maata di' or some such slogan and this makes me very uncomfortable. It is also required that all the participants cover their heads as a mark of respect to the organizers' imaginary friends. Last but not the least, the food being offered is called 'prasaad' and the Hindu/Sikh version of the Transubstantiation is effected by chanting verses from the relevant scriptures.

I know that there is a glaring paucity of genuine communal kitchens in our nation. The only ones in operation seem to belong to religious institutions.Apart from feeding well-to-do votaries, such dining facilities offer great relief to rickshaw drivers and homeless people.
My question: what should our attitude/stance be, as secular humanists, to such an essentially religious but ultimately humanitarian scheme of feeding people?
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The act itself may be a secular and a gesture of humanitarianism, but the fact still stands that you are giving that food as the food blessed by a divine being and disrespecting the recipient's beliefs or lack of beliefs.
Whenever an act of decency can be performed, just do it and don't let it be swathed in unnecessary hues of religion, culture or what not.
Even with charities, I always give to a secular foundation whenever possible and avoid the religious ones. Because in my opinion the act of doing something good should be in the interest of the recipient and NOT because it is a show of your belief in a faith, or because the faith dictates that you do it or because the act itself is just to prove how "loving" it is.

TL;DR version:
Quote:My question: what should our attitude/stance be, as secular humanists, to such an essentially religious but ultimately humanitarian scheme of feeding people?
Ignore them and do your own good deeds. In one people get fed so that's a good thing; but to preach BS to a hungry man/woman in the dumps while giving them food is reprehensible.
"It's alright, I rarely meet anyone who's able to read it properly. Although personally, I never thought that it to be an odd of a name. Once I give people the pronunciation, they tend to remember my name by easily associating me with it. A unique face, a unique moniker."
The ethical dilemma that humanitarian freethinkers are sometimes faced with due to the relative paucity of certified secular alternatives in indispensable efforts to counter human suffering, can perhaps be viewed in the context of what we may call Peter Singer's talisman, earlier discussed here.
Quote:First premise: Suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care are bad.
Second premise: If it is in your power to prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing anything nearly as important, it is wrong not to do so.
Third premise: By donating to aid agencies, you can prevent suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care, without sacrificing anything nearly as important.
Conclusion: Therefore, if you do not donate to aid agencies, you are doing something wrong.

Questions for a freethinker are: When the issue is say as exigent as one of starvation, does it remain ethical to delay or withhold aid and hence prolong some avoidable suffering, simply for the luxury of remaining a stickler to 'secular fundamentalism'? Does the argument offered by Singer above stand on its own merits even with the generic mention of 'aid agencies' and does it remain fundamentally deficient without the further qualification of 'secular aid agencies'? In the context of the clause 'without sacrificing anything nearly as important' in the Third Premise, is the self-assuring note-to-self saying, "Look, at least I didn't end up bankrolling evangelists of some kind!" nearly as important as preventing some avoidable suffering? Stated more starkly, does our supposed imperative to maintain secular fastidiousness, justify an added cost of delay to an already hungry child?

This ethical dilemma was discussed at length in these earlier posts, of which summaries of different (not exactly competing) stances, can be read below:

(31-Jan-2011, 12:15 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: In business parlance, a 'pre-competitive issue' is one in which rival companies may collaborate to face a change that threatens their profession itself (eg. Two mining companies who are otherwise rivals, collaborating to proceed legally against a government revocation of mining permits). Likewise, is the endemic malnutrition in India an issue that warrants freethinkers to throw in their lot with efforts made by faith-based organizations?
This approach seems consistent with the principle of 'separating people from ideas' and can be summarized as follows: "As Brutus said in Shakespeare's Caesar "As he was valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I slew him. " Likewise we may say: 'They provide the workforce for a secular charitable trust like Akshaya Patra, so we laud them. They sell inexpensive snacks, so we purchase them. They promote Vedic Creationism, so we lambast them. They have faced abuse charges, so we keep them in the dock!'. "

(31-Jan-2011, 12:15 AM)Ajita Kamal Wrote: Perhaps. And if yes, it is also an issue that freethinkers can contribute towards from a purely reason-based point of view, rejecting all superstitious fact-claims. These two approaches are not necessarily incompatible, politically speaking.
Much of our work has been in widening the possibilities between the throwing in our lot with faith-based organizations and refusing to contribute to social programs run by true believers.

These two options by themselves signify a false dichotomy, and the middle ground is where things get done. A multi-pronged, pluralistic strategy might be best from a pragmatic/realistic point of view. This sort of measured pragmatism is, of course, very unpopular, especially since our current media framework works to present issues as black/white dichotomies, playing to our basal instincts.

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