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Thursday, March 10, 2016

How Secular Are Secular Ethics?

By Jennifer Michael Hecht
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally published February 21, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

There’s some truth to all these claims, but they are just a fraction of a much richer story. The real roots of secular ethics in the 18th to 20th centuries are to be found in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Star Trek. They come from Plato, Ecclesiastes, George Eliot, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Dr. Who. Furthermore, some element of personal ethics seems to be hard-wired in humans. When we think of passionate moral feeling as necessarily derived from Christianity, we do violence to reality. To think this way today is particularly galling because so many traditions of being good in the world now crowd our common culture.

But mostly it is just naïve. It makes me think of the schoolroom map of Siam in The King and I. Christianity is there, on the map of moral influences, but it is just not that big. As we move into the future, it is important to remember the myriad nonsupernatural models for dedicating oneself to being good. And, of course, the complexity of the real story is much richer than the simplistic one.

The article is here.