Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Morality Without Religion?

Last month, people were shocked by a story (and video) about a Chinese girl who died after a hit-and-run accident where onlookers did nothing to help her:

BEIJING (Reuters) - A two-year-old Chinese girl run over by two different vehicles and ignored by passersby died on Friday, state media said, in a case which ignited public uproar over what some called a moral numbness seeping through society.

Both drivers who ran over the girl have been arrested, but Internet users have flooded microblogs decrying the apathy of the people who left her for dead, after graphic footage from a security camera of the incident went viral.

Wang Yue died of brain failure more than a week after the accident in Foshan in the far southern province of Guangdong, Xinhua news agency said.

"The hospital went all out and made utmost effort to save her. But ... her injuries were too severe and the treatment had no effect," Su Lei, the director of the Guangzhou Military Hospital's intensive care unit, told a news conference.

The surveillance video from the October 13 hit-and-run, aired by a television station, shows the girl run over by a van, which drives off leaving her to bleed on a narrow street.

More than a dozen people over the next seven minutes walk or drive past the girl on bicycles and she is run over by a second truck. A woman then pulls the girl to the side of the street before her mother, a migrant worker, rushes into the frame.

China's economic boom and the growing disparity between the rich and poor have made changing social values a contentious topic, with some lamenting what they see as materialism replacing morals.

Vox Day was not among those who blamed materialism. Instead, he offered the insight that we shouldn't be surprised that people would react in such a manner when they have been brought up in a society that devalues girls:

It is sheer lunacy to attempt to blame capitalism for the more than a dozen people who walked by, indifferent to the suffering of the dying little girl. These are people who have been taught for the entirety of their existence that a) there are too many people and b) killing little girls is a social good. Now they're supposed to suddenly switch gears because there is one less undesirable little girl to overpopulate China?

Quite clearly, that's not going to happen. There is nothing wrong with those Chinese individuals that isn't the result of social engineering. This is the New Chinese Man that Mao wanted to create. They aren't monsters so much as they are the product of a monstrous society, raised from birth to be blind to the suffering and death of little girls.

Vox is definitely on target with this explanation.

Another factor that I don't think has gotten enough attention is the role of religion or more specifically the lack of it. For although we keep hearing stories about the rise of Christianity in China, it remains a largely irreligious country. I found it interesting that the stories about this incident didn’t mention religion outright even as they danced around it.

"But cases when dying persons aren't given help, or when good Samaritans get into trouble, are often widely reported in the media, which tends to make the public concerned."


The provincial capital, Guangzhou, plans a law to protect good Samaritans and give rewards of up to 500,000 yuan for such actions, the newspaper added.


Many people in China are hesitant to help people who appear to be in distress for fear that they will be blamed. High-profile lawsuits have ended with good Samaritans ordered to pay hefty fines to individuals they sought to help.

So just where did this concept of the “good Samaritan” come from anyway? Even in the now largely secular West, the foundations of Christian morality are deep and strong enough that most people still adhere (loosely in some areas) to a Judeo-Christian moral code even if they don’t consider themselves religious or even realize the basis of their morality. The same can’t be said for China. It’s more than a little disconcerting that a country that seems poised to become increasingly powerful and influential on the world stage really has no religious foundation to speak of and that a majority of its citizens have no religion at all. The last time we faced a situation that was in some respects similar was with the Soviet Union.

But fear not, the Party will take care of this lack of morality among Chinese citizens:

The provincial Communist Party chief, Wang Yang, urged "searching reflection" on the incident, the official Guangzhou Daily reported.

"Take active and effective steps to raise the moral standards of the entire society," he told a meeting of province officials, according to the paper.