Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Beliefs Everyone Can Share?

Many people have commented that rarely do I have much positive to say about religion and that this needlessly alienates the majority of Americans, who just so happen to be religious (in case you hadn’t noticed). So in an effort to connect with those for whom religion is a major component of their lives, I have decided to outline areas where I believe common ground exists. The following are my beliefs, which stem from an entirely unreligious perspective, but which most religious people (and probably most Americans in general) likely share:

1. I acknowledge that there is something greater than human beings in the universe

This might seem like a small detail but I don’t think it is. Often religious people believe that those who resist religion inevitably are led to conclude that all of the mysteries of the universe can be explained away by science. This is not true. In a previous piece (Faith v. Reason 11-24-04) I showed why reason alone is sufficient to deduce that the source of the universe is beyond human comprehension, wondrous, and worthy of awe; a centerpiece of most religious worldviews.

2. I believe that moral values are essential for a prosperous society

Like most religious people, I believe in fairness, justice, personal responsibility, hard work, accountability, and a strong commitment to these ideals in both my personal and professional life. I believe people have inalienable rights and strive to be free. I believe in liberty and democracy. I also believe in freedom of religious worship.

3. I believe that there are some moral absolutes

For example, rape is wrong, genocide is wrong, totalitarianism is wrong, racial and gender discrimination is wrong. Many people who are not religious are often accused of seeing the moral world in a completely relativistic light, in which “right” and “wrong” are always in the “eye of the beholder.” This isn’t true, although I concede that probably non-religious people believe in a smaller set of moral absolutes than do most religious people.

4. I believe that society should protect its weakest members

All societies have vulnerable members, whether they are children, the homeless, or the mentally ill, and the mark of a great society is one that cares for and protects these groups. Almost all religions share this belief.

5. I believe that society must make a strong commitment to protect the environment and the varied creatures that we share the planet with

The “free market” alone will not adequately protect the environment because many aspects exhibit the properties of public goods, which are non-rival and non-excludable (such as the ozone layer, biodiversity, the global climate), and therefore cannot be sold for profit. To correct for this market failure, both charitable individuals and the government have a role to play in ensuring the sustainability of the diverse natural resources that nourish human society and inspire us in countless ways. This philosophy is shared by most religions, which view human societies as stewards of God’s Creation.
J.S.

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