Saturday, December 3, 2011

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Beyond Religion

I was skimming the headlines on The Huffington Post this morning, and happened across a rather fascinating excerpt from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s upcoming book, Beyond Religion.

He finds that both religion and science (thus far) fail to provide for the universal morality necessary for inner peace and world peace:

“Science, for all the benefits it has brought to our external world, has not yet provided scientific grounding for the development of the foundations of personal integrity -- the basic inner human values that we appreciate in others and would do well to promote in ourselves. . . . Today, however, any religion-based answer to the problem of our neglect of inner values can never be universal, and so will be inadequate. What we need today is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without: a secular ethics.”

And what is the basis for the secular ethics? Compassion: “The essence of compassion is a desire to alleviate the suffering of others and to promote their well-being. This is the spiritual principle from which all other positive inner values emerge.” The purpose/goal is also well-stated: “For it is these inner values which are the source of both an ethically harmonious world and the individual peace of mind, confidence and happiness we all seek.”

As I’ve mentioned before, since my abandonment of religion, I’ve been searching for a secular basis of morality as well, taking Sam Harris’ suggestion of seeking a moral basis in science. The Dalai Lama and Sam Harris seem like they’re on the same page. I expect that this book will be similar to The Moral Landscape, other than one of them is targeted specifically for atheists, while the other is more inclusive for all religions.

It is incredibly refreshing to see a major religious leader try and build bridges to secular people, and be inclusive of atheists. It’s incredibly gratifying to feel that kind of outreach from a religious person in a world where atheists are about as trusted as rapists (seriously, google it). My desire to gain trust for us atheists was part of the reason why I decided to be as public as I am about my atheism. Hopefully I’m a good representative of the atheist community. My experience at Atheists of Utah meetings definitely indicates that atheists are generally good, honest people. Hopefully other religious leaders will follow the Dalai Lama’s lead in becoming more inclusive and accepting of everyone, even us godless heathens :)

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