4.2.3 Non-Religious Foundations for Morality

Non-religious foundations for moral values include philosophy, compassion, and rational arguments based on enlightened self-interest.

Although religion remains strong overall, as noted previously (4.2.2), there are many people who not see themselves as religious. They wouldn’t refer to religious teachings when making decisions about moral questions.  According to humanism.co.uk:

“Throughout recorded history there have been non-religious people who have believed that this life is the only life we have, that the universe is a natural phenomenon with no supernatural side, and that we can live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity”.

Nick Spencer’s article, The search for the secular Jesus, describes efforts to extract the moral teachings of Christianity from the mystical elements.  He argues that these are unsuccessful because, without a religious context, they fail to explain Jesus’s authority.  For non-religious foundations for moral values, the arguments must be self-supporting.  If obedience to God is not accepted as a basis for a moral code, and if people believe that they only have earthly lives, there are other ways of demonstrating why good behaviour is desirable.  They are all compatible with the Golden Rule (4.2.2.2) as a sound basis for moral behaviour – as shown in the following sub-sections:

●  Philosophers have thought about moral values and can help people to think about issues of right and wrong (4.2.3.1).

●  It has been shown that humans evolved with a sense of compassion that prompts people to avoid harming others (4.2.3.2).

●  There is also a rational argument based upon ‘enlightened self-interest’: everyone benefits if people don’t normally hurt each other (4.2.3.3).

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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/423a.htm