Ethics beyond religion?

This morning, I came across this post on Facebook from His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

“All the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.”

Oh, how I love that quote.

I believe a lot in the Buddhist teachings. Just my beliefs, and I fully respect the beliefs that other people hold dear. I would never seek to force an opinion on another, just as I would hope that no-one would try and force a belief on me.

It does irritate me when people say “All religions are evil…just a load of mumbo-jumbo…false gods…etc…”  For the briefest of moments, I feel like sticking up for Buddhism, which is at it’s heart a very tolerant religion and has no god as such.

But then I wonder why people feel like this. And seeing the religious hatred around the world, the various arguments for or against laws and invasions based on beliefs, and you can’t help but wonder if religion causes more harm than good. One only has to watch the US, where the debate rages about the legality and ethics surrounding abortions verses religious principles.

Many people are turning away from religion. In the UK, during the Occupy London Stock Exchange protests, many people became disappointed and disenfranchised when St. Paul’s Cathedral, set up based on a religion preaching support to the ordinary man, seemed to support the businesses and financial interests instead*. I have seen several comments on discussion boards asking “Is there a place for the church these days”.

In amongst all of this, there are occasions where an absence of a moral compass does seem to hit home. Yet there are also times of extraordinary courage, discipline and integrity. One only has to look back to the London riots last year, where some ransacked and burned shops and buildings, and others stood up, pleaded for no more violence, and made weary police officers cups of tea.

Is there a need for a moral edict from some authority, religious or otherwise? Where can we find guidance as to what is right or wrong without a belief in a higher being or plane of existence?

And it is into this void the Dalai Lama dares to tread. Saying that the questions of spirituality (in whatever form) and ethics needs to be addressed, but perhaps without a belief system as a backdrop. One where people don’t need to find themselves in conflict with their own countrymen with a different belief system, one where the moral guidance is enough. One appropriate for our modern age.

How do we move to such a society? Can we move past beliefs to just see the moral hazards and propose guidance to move past them? Will such a thing happen in our lifetime? I don’t believe anyone can answer that. But I strongly believe the Dalai Lama is right to ask, and I applaud him for posing the question and planting the ideals into our minds.

Keep Smiling,
– Michael

close up photograph of person praying in front lined candles
Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

* This is my own interpretation of events, I’m sure others would see it differently. Remember this is my personal blog, feel free to disagree with my opinions…politely, if you so please 🙂

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