Researchers from the University of York Archaeology Department have published a new book called The Prehistory of Compassion that argues Neanderthal had feelings of empathy. (The findings have also been published in the journal, Time & Mind.) Associated archaeological evidence indicates that Neanderthal cared for the injured or infirmed over extended periods:

These include the remains of a child with a congenital brain abnormality who was not abandoned, but lived until five or six years old. The researchers also note that there was a Neanderthal with a withered arm, deformed feet and blindness in one eye who must have been cared for, perhaps for as long as twenty years.
 

A subsequent paper has come out (published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) presenting evidence of compassion even among Neanderthal's ancestor, Homo heidelbergensis, who lived 500,000 years ago.

Analysis of the fossils indicates the male Homo heidelbergensis was over age 45 and suffered from a spinal deformity that would have caused him a lot of pain and forced him to stoop over. It's not clear how much older than 45 he was. The researcher, however, are certain that he was elderly based on his remains."He possibly used a cane, just as a modern elderly person does," Bonmati said. "This individual may not have been an active hunter and was impaired to carry heavy loads, thus an important source of his food would depend on other members of the group, which would mean sharing."

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But should we not be altruistic and attempt to help theists just like any other handicapped individual? (Yes, that was meant to be funny, you can laugh). But seriously.... an afront to education is a true handicap and those whom are lucky enough to break through into the factual world have somewhat of a responsibility to extend knowledge. Now, I know that sounds dangerously theistic, but it is true only in so far as provinding clues to combat theology and allowing the black sheep to wander over through free will. It is up to us to build a solid foundation of truth and knowledge so that these black sheep have a firm ground to stand on.
Now, I know that sounds dangerously theistic, but it is true only in so far as provinding clues to combat theology and allowing the black sheep to wander over through free will. It is up to us to build a solid foundation of truth and knowledge so that these black sheep have a firm ground to stand on.

I think you are absolutely right. Remember there are a lot of former theists who are in Atheist Nexus right now. I don't think most would be here if they did not have firm grounds to reject theism. I was talking about tough love against the obstinate ones and the tough love I had in mind involved rational arguments against theism.
I don't see this as a new realization. The evidence of compassion and empathy in Neanderthals has been known for years. The care given to an arthritic old man, evidence of long term survival of those with incapacitating injuries and the formality of burial with artifacts, flowers and preparation of the body. However, this is not evidence of morality and empathy arising without religion as we don't know if the Neanderthal had religious beliefs. There is, however, some evidence of an animistic religion.
You are correct in assessing that these burial rituals arose alongside their concepts of religion. However, both these points, whether taken through a compassionary or theological point of view, contradicts the outstanding theory that compassion (to keep the term simple) is an innate human characteristic bestowed by the creator. Furthermore, it also services to contradict the theory that only humans have been chosen by the creator to reflect his image and be the supreme leaders over all earthly domains.
Another article has just come out presenting evidence of compassion even among Neanderthal's ancestor, Homo heidelbergensis, who lived 500,000 years ago.

http://news.discovery.com/archaeology/disabled-elderly-human.html

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