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Ethical Interfaith

- Core Issues in Ethics Addressed -
Are there universal ethics and universal rights?
If so, how can they be established and justified?
Can the same core ethics be justified for different faiths,
and from a non-faith perspective? If so, how?
What are reality-based ethics, the ethics of flourishing?


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Core Issues in Ethics.
Are there universal ethics and universal rights?
From ethics and religion, to interfaith dialogue,
to validating reality-based ethics.


Probably there is no single issue as core to ethics, than if there is any universal ethical standard, if there are universal ethics and then also universal rights. Many people these days look at the very different standards, especially of different religions, and give up and say there are only personal ethics. Everything is relative, subjective.

I say: though one cannot figure out exactly what is the right course of action in every single instance, there are very simple principles.

John Stuart Mills, in the 19th century, came up with what can be boiled down to a 3-word system: liberty until harm. In other words, a good ethical system allows liberty unless this will lead to harm. By the way, he also argued against liberty until offense. Anyone can be offended at anything. Total nonsense.

He was basing his ethics on reality.

Thousands of years ago, Aristotle did the same. Good ethics, he argued, were what allowed and encouraged our flourishing. In everyday words, good ethics are what help us "be a mensch."

What do we need to flourish? It holds everywhere. Physical safety, emotional safety, spiritual safety. Encouragement to think critically, encouragement of creativity, encouragement to develop emotionally, encouragement to develop physical talents. Stimulation on many levels (like through exposure to many creative works, ideas, information, people, ways of living). Protection against harm. Boundaries against our harming others.

I won't go into details here. The central point is that it's quite easy to come to the core of what we need to flourish, the core of reality-based universal ethics.

These reality-based ethics hold for religions, as well as for non-religious ways of looking at the world.


In a religion, believers may believe one of two things.

Option One. A deity can arbitrarily make things good or bad. So one day, killing the firstborn is good, the next it is bad, if the deity changes his or her mind. Rape is likewise good or bad, depending on the decision of the deity. One day torture is bad, the next good, and then bad again - it just depends on what the god decides is right and wrong on that day.

Most people don't accept that ethics is arbitrary like this. Rape is wrong, most people hold, because it harms the people being raped.

That brings us to Option Two. A god can only know what is already good or bad. He or she may have more knowledge (maybe being omniscient, etc), so may know better than a human. But as humans also have knowledge, and can also form judgments based on that knowledge, we too can recognize what is good and bad.

What this means is that, if you're an atheist or devout believer in some religion, your morality has the same basis: reality - and reality will bring us, over and over, to very similar ethical standards, like liberty until harm.

Why have most people backed away from recognizing this?

Most people haven't come across these thoughts. So one reason is lack of awareness.

Then, so many ethical beliefs have been toppled or at least are being strongly challenged: birth control is evil, non-marital sex is sinful, homosexuality is an abomination. Things like dancing and going to the theatre were held immoral by many forms of Protestantism.

Instead of seeing why these standards have been proven invalid, many people have just washed their hands of all ethical systems. None can be better than any other.

It's a dangerous route. It means ethical systems can come in, that are destructive of freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom to live lives right for us - and people can't see that there are strong and simple reasons for saying NO to them.

A good ethical system gives us strength. It means we know we have right on our side. It's not some personal whimsy.

This is all the more vital at present as the freedoms that the West has just been implementing - finally - are being challenged by a system that demands subordination, submission, lack of critical thought, lack of music. It lacks justification too, except for "might makes right."

This brings us to another reason why people are often not standing up for values like freedom of thought and speech. It's easier not to confront those against such principles. We may have to face anger. We may also have to face being called names. We may - perhaps worst - come across as nasty instead of nice if people with other standards cry, "You're discriminating against me."

The greatest strength of those against the freedoms of the West is the current weakness of many people in the West:

- people who confuse tolerance and things like interfaith dialogue with needing to be tolerant of everything, accepting of every diversity, and with needing to be silent in the face of religious persecution,

- people who confuse goodness with backing away from potential conflict - that isn't goodness or niceness, it's weakness,

- people who wrongly accept that the different moral standards of different religions are proof that there is no way we can figure our where morality lies.

It's time to take on the core issues in ethics and come to the powerful recognition:

- that universal ethics exist,

- that it is easy to establish some general universal human rights,

- that there are strong arguments establishing these universal realty-based human rights to flourish and have "liberty until harm,"

- and that it is vital to defend these rights against anyone who would lessen them - always on weak grounds, like:

- "this is what we want"

- "this is what our god says" (though many other gods say otherwise - but those other gods don't matter to those using this argument )

- "otherwise our feelings are hurt"

- "poor us, poor poor us, we are so badly offended"

- and if you still say no, "give us what we ask for or we'll rage and destroy, rage and destroy, and rage and destroy some more"

- so in the end it comes down to, "might makes right."

But they don't actually have this might. They have some might.

But so do we. More than they have, actually.

And we need to use all our powers - from loving our freedoms, to loving our spiritualities, to loving our rights - to protect and keep safe the things we value, the many good things so very much worth protecting.

And one power comes from within us, to see and think and evaluate.

I will end with a core value I haven't mentioned yet: the importance of doing one's best "to make the world a better place" - such trite words, and yet so important. There are many routes: social change, inner change, spiritual change.

How to justify this value? It leads to less harm, pain, less hurt, more love, more joy, more peace in the world - more flourishing, more liberty.


To go from these videos
on core issues in ethics,
universal ethics and universal rights,
to the home page, click here.

To go from this critical thinking
on religion and morality,
to my personal spirituality, click here.

Core Issues in Ethics.
Are there universal ethics and universal rights?
From religion and morality, to interfaith dialogue,
to validating reality-based ethics.


core issues in ethics, universal ethics,
universal rights, ethics and religion,
interfaith dialogue, personal ethics,
critical thinking

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Reality-Based Ethics:
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Ethical Interfaith
dedicated to the
open, candid, truthful
and respectful
exploration of:

- the ethics of
different faiths,
both from religious texts
and as these are lived,

- our personal ethics
and how these relate
(or not) to our faith,

- what is at the core
of ethics,
the things we need
to flourish.


Core Issues in Ethics.
Are there universal ethics and universal rights?
From religion and morality, to interfaith dialogue,
to validating reality-based ethics.

To go fro these videos on ethics and religion,
and universal ethics,
to the home page, click here.


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