VI. Weaknesses in the Traditional Views of Value

As already stated, one of the causes of the collapse of values today is that traditional systems of value―primarily religious systems―have lost their persuasive power, their ability to persuade people. Why have the traditional views of value lost their persuasive power? Let us look at some representative cases.

1. Weaknesses in the Christian View of Value

Christianity promotes excellent virtues, as expressed in the following biblical passages:

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39).
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44).
“Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them” (The Golden Rule, Matt 7:12).
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be
satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is
the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5).
“So, faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Although in Christianity there are many other virtues, it is stated that “love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1), which means that the basis for all virtues is love. It is also stated that “Love is of God…. God is love” (1 John 4:7-8), which means that the basis of love is God.

Yet, in our modern age the existence of God came to be denied by Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Marx, Russell, Sartre, and many others. Christianity has not been able to respond effectively to such God-denying philosophies. That is to say, in the confrontation between theism and atheism, Christianity has lost ground. As a result, a great number of people have become influenced by atheism.

Furthermore, a challenge has been issued by Communism against the Christian view of value. Communists deny the concepts of absolute love and love for humankind, as asserted in Christianity, and insist that real love is class-centered love, or love for one’s comrades. In a society where there are conflicts of interest, there can be no love beyond one’s own social class. One simply has to choose to stand either on the side of the proletariat or on the side of the bourgeoisie. It is impossible to practice a love for humankind in an actual class society. Ultimately, say the Communists, love for humankind is an empty phrase that can not be put into actual practice.

To hear such assertions, certainly class-centered love sounds more actual, whereas Christian love sounds merely conceptual. Especially for those who are not convinced of the existence of God, it is quite natural that Christian love does not seem to be so convincing.

It is also not surprising that Liberation Theology and Dependency Theory have emerged today in the Third World. According to Liberation Theology, Jesus was a revolutionary who came to save the oppressed and the poor of his age. Therefore, Liberation Theology preaches that those who are true Christians must fight for social revolution. Thus, sympathy for the poor agrees well with the Communist view of class-centered love, and eventually this kind of sympathy becomes aligned with Communism in working to solve actual problems.

According to Dependency Theory, poverty in the third world arises from structural contradictions between advanced countries and the third world, and is unavoidable. This theory asserts that in order for the third world to be liberated from poverty, the third world must confront advanced capitalist nations. Dependency Theory attempts to align itself with Communism in much the same way as Liberation Theology does.

Neither Liberation Theology nor Dependency Theory possesses a coherent philosophy, a coherent theory of history, or a coherent economic theory when compared to Communism. Therefore, eventually they can not but be absorbed by Communism. Christianity has been unable to take an effective course of action to resolve this situation.

2. Weaknesses in the Confucian View of Value

In Confucianism there are such virtues as the following:

  1. The Five Moral Rules Governing the Five Human Relationships: The five moral rules, since ancient times, have been described as follows: “Affection should mark the relations between father and son; justice and righteousness should mark the relations between sovereign and subject; distinction should mark the relations between husband and wife; order should mark the relations between elder and younger brothers; trust should mark the relations among friends.” These have been regarded as the basis for human relationships, and were especially emphasized by Mencius.
  2. The Four Virtues: Mencius preached four virtues, namely, jen (benevolence), righteousness, propriety, and knowledge. Later, Tung Chung-shu, of the Han dynasty, added “faith,” establishing the Way of the Five Cardinal Virtues (jen, righteousness, propriety, knowledge, and faith).
  3. The Four Beginnings: According to Mencius, the feeling of commiseration, the feeling of shame and dislike, the feeling of modesty and complaisance, and the feeling of approving and disapproving, are the Four Beginnings. Each of these was thought to be the beginning of one of the Four Virtues, jen, righteousness, propriety, and knowledge, respectively.
  4. The Eight Articles: In order to govern the world peacefully, an official must do the following: (a) investigate many things; (b) extend his knowledge; (c) be guided by sincere thoughts; (d) rectify his heart; (e) cultivate his personality; (f) regulate his own family; (g) govern the state well; and (h) bring peace to the world.
  5. Loyalty and Filial Piety: Loyalty and filial piety are the virtues with which one serves one’s superiors and one’s parents.

The basis for all these virtues is jen, and the basis for jen is Heaven. However, Confucianism does not explain clearly what Heaven is. Communists have criticized Confucianism by applying the Communist theory of “basis and superstructure,” saying that the Confucian teaching is nothing more than a means of justifying the existing rules. They argue that Confucian values were coined by the ruling class during the feudal period in order to make the people follow obediently and that, therefore, Confucian teachings are not appropriate for a modern, democratic society, which follows the principles of equal rights and majority rule. Consequently, Confucian virtues are all but neglected today. Furthermore, as communities have become urbanized and families have divided into nuclear families, the Confucian view of value is increasingly collapsing and, as a result, there has been an acceleration of disorder and confusion in many communities.

3. Weaknesses in the Buddhist View of Value

The fundamental virtue of Buddhism is mercy (maitri), and in order to practice mercy a life of training is required. Through such a life of training, one reaches Srāvaka (one who is awakened by hearing the teachings, or one who wishes to become a disciple of the arhat, the enlightened one), Pratyeka-buddha (one who awakens by oneself, or the one who has realized the principle of no generation or destruction and attained the state of freedom), Bodhisattva (the one striving for enlightenment, or the one who strives for Buddhahood and tries to lead people to Buddhahood) and finally Buddhahood (the enlightened one, or the one with perfect personality). Mercy, a virtue, becomes possible at the levels of Bodhisattva and Buddhahood. One is not yet ready to practice mercy at the levels of Srāvaka and Pratyeka-buddha.

Human beings are not aware of the fact that all things in the world change, or are transitory; accordingly, they are overly attached to their present life, and that is the cause of their suffering. In order to end suffering one must get rid of such attachments through a life of training. Deliverance from attachments and liberation from suffering are understood as “salvation” (vimukti) in Buddhism.

Through salvation, one enters a state of selflessness and acquires the ability to practice true mercy, according to Buddhism.

The fundamental thought of the Buddha has been systematized in the teachings of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths consist of (1) the Truth of Suffering, (2) the Truth of the Cause of Suffering, (3) the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering, and (4) the Truth of the Noble Path to the Cessation of the Cause of Suffering. The Truth of Suffering tells us that human life is full of suffering. The Truth of the Cause of Suffering teaches that the cause of this suffering is attachment. The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering teaches that in order to get rid of suffering and attain Nirvana (Perfect Tranquility), one must give up attachment. The Truth of the Noble Path to the Cessation of the Cause of Suffering is that, in order to make one’s suffering disappear and to attain Nirvana, one must be trained in and walk according to the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path is the following: (1) Right View, (2) Right Thought, (3) Right Speech, (4) Right Behavior, (5) Right Livelihood, (6) Right Effort, (7) Right Mindfulness, and (8) Right Concentration.

Right view refers to one’s having correct knowledge about the essence of the world without any prejudice. Through right thought, a person decides to walk the correct path. Right speech includes not lying or criticizing others unjustly. Right behavior includes abstaining from killing and stealing. To follow right livelihood, a person must live a righteous life in accordance with the right law. To practice right effort, a person must conquer all evil thoughts, and strive to dwell only on good thoughts. To attain right mindfulness, a person must seek truth, freeing his or her mind from earthly thoughts. Finally, through right concentration, a person engages in deep meditation and attains a tranquil state of mind without worldly desires.

The system of twelve points was established through an enquiry into the cause of the emergence of human pain. That cause is the teaching of the twelve causations. According to this teaching, the root cause of human suffering is desire or greed, but more fundamental than that, there is ignorance of Tathatā (the source of the universe), and of the state of not realizing that pain and suffering are not essential. From this ignorance, all kinds of suffering arise.

In Mahayana Buddhism, the perfection of the following six practices (pramit) is necessary for one to become a Bodhisattva: (1) Offering, (2) Keeping precepts, (3) Endurance, (4) Endeavor, (5) Concentration of mind, and (6) Wisdom. Offering means giving to others unconditionally, with benevolence. Keeping precepts is for the perfection of morality. A person must endure sufferings. Endeavor refers to one’s practice of the teachings of Buddha with diligence and courage. Concentration of mind is the perfection of meditation, and wisdom is the knowledge and ability to judge good and evil, or right and wrong. The root of the above virtues of Buddhism is mercy, and the basis for mercy is Tathatā, which is the source of the universe. Today, however, the Buddhist view of values has lost its ability to persuade people. This is because the Buddhist doctrine has the following problems:

  1. The exact nature of Tathatā, the source of the universe, is not explained.
  2. The way the dharmas (all phenomena) have come into being is unclear.
  3. A fundamental explanation of how ignorance came about is not given.
  4. A fundamental solution of actual problems (of human life, society, and history) is impossible merely through training.

Moreover, Communism has served as a challenge to Buddhism. The Communist assault can be summarized as follows: “Actual society is filled with exploitation, oppression, the gap between rich and poor, and other social ills. The cause of these vices lies not so much in personal ignorance as it does in the contradictions within the system of capitalist society itself. Buddhist training is for the salvation of the individual, but is not that just a way of escaping from reality, a way of avoiding a real solution to the problems? Engaging in training without solving actual problems is nothing but hypocrisy.” Thus confronted, Buddhists have been unable to counter with an appropriate response.

4. Weaknesses in the Islamic View of Value

Islam regards Muhammad as the greatest of all prophets and the Qur’an as the most perfect of all scriptures, but it also believes in Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, and regards the five books of Moses, David’s Psalms, and the Gospel of Jesus, as its scriptures. Therefore, Islamic virtues have many points in common with Judeo-Christian virtues.

The Islamic teachings of faith and practice are summarized in the Six Articles of Faith and the Five Obligatory Practices. The six articles of faith are that one must believe in God, in angels, in the scriptures, in the prophets, in the Day of Judgment, and must believe that human destiny is in the hands of Allah. The five obligations, or pillars, are prayer, confession of faith, fasting, almsgiving, and pilgrimage.

The object of faith is Allah, who is absolute, the only one, the Creator, and the Ruler. To the question of who Allah is, Islamic theologians offer ninety-nine attributes, among which “compassionate” and “merciful” are the most fundamental. Therefore, we can say that the most fundamental and representative virtue of all Islamic virtues is compassion, or mercy.

In this way, Islamic values have many points in common with the values of other religions, and can exist in harmony with them. However, there have been many cases of serious conflicts, including wars, among Islamic sects, and between Islam and other religions. Taking advantage of such conflicts, Communism has been challenging Islam. The Communist criticism could be summarized as follows: “There can be no love for humankind, as Islam advocates. The struggles among Islamic sects verify our assertion. In a class society, there can be only class-centered love.” Thus, by taking advantage of existing conflicts, Communists have attempted to make Islamic countries Communistic, or at least pro-Communistic.

As mentioned, Islam has experienced internal conflicts among its sects and externally with other religions. Above all, the conflict between Islam and Judeo- Christianity has been particularly sharp since the Crusades. The serious conflicts among its sects, and with other religions, all having in common a belief in God’s creation and providence, rendered Islamic values virtually impotent as far as having a persuasive influence on people.

5. Weaknesses in the Humanitarian View of Value

The term humanitarianism is often used as having the same meaning as humanism. Yet, in a strict sense, there are important differences. Humanism is a perspective that aims to achieve the liberation of human beings by fostering the independence of the human personality. On the other hand, humanitarianism has strong ethical overtones, advocating respect for people, philanthropy, universal brotherhood, and so on. Unlike animals, human beings possess humanity; therefore, all people should be respected. This rather vague perspective is characteristic of humanitarianism. Nevertheless, it does not explain clearly what a human being is.

Consequently, humanitarianism has inevitably been vulnerable to attacks from Communism. Let us suppose for example, that there is a humanitarian business person. A Communist might approach that person with the following reasoning: “You are exploiting your workers without knowing it. Why do not we build a society where all people live in affluence?” Also, suppose there is a humanitarian youth who believes that acquiring knowledge is the most important thing in life. A Communist might say to that person, “What are you studying for? You should not always be thinking only of your own success. That will, after all, serve only the bourgeoisie. Do you not think we should live for the sake of the people?” Thus confronted, a conscientious humanitarian would find it difficult to respond. Even if the person did not become a Communist, he might be left with a favorable impression of Communism, and harbor good reasons to support it. Accordingly, those with a humanitarian view of value have been unable to deal with Communist admonitions, and therefore many humanitarians have been deceived by Communism. Today, however, Communism having declined, many humanitarians have come to realize that Communism is wrong. Through the examples given above, it should have become clear that traditional systems of value have lost their ability to persuade people. Therefore, one way of restoring traditional values is to establish a new view of value on the firm foundation of a belief in the existence of God.