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10 'commandments' for atheists


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#1 Z-girls rock

Posted 06 February 2013 - 12:56 PM

So I saw this in this article: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/the-1...0205-2dw83.html

essentially a list of 'best practice ways to live' developed by a guy called Alain de Botton

I think it is a pretty good list.
Resilience: Keeping going even when things are looking dark.

Empathy: The capacity to connect imaginatively with the sufferings and unique  experiences of another person.

Patience: We should grow calmer and more forgiving by being more realistic  about how things actually happen

Sacrifice: We won't ever manage to raise a family, love someone else or save  the planet if we don't keep up with the art of sacrifice

Politeness: Politeness is closely linked to tolerance, -the capacity to live  alongside people whom one will never agree with, but at the same time, cannot  avoid.

<li>Humour: Like anger, humour springs from disappointment, but it is  disappointment optimally channelled.

<li>Self-awareness: To know oneself is to try not to blame others for one's  troubles and moods; to have a sense of what's going on inside oneself, and what  actually belongs to the world.

<li>Forgiveness: It's recognising that living with others is not possible without  excusing errors.

<li>Hope: Pessimism is not necessarily deep, nor optimism shallow.

<li>Confidence: Confidence is not arrogance - rather, it is based on a constant  awareness of how short life is and how little we will ultimately lose from  risking everything.


(sorry that the formatting is a bit weird).


I am still thinking about the list. Do we need it? It is just a good starting place for an attempt at outlining ethical living?

I was raised in an athiest household but have since become Buddhist. I would like to see compassion included, to me compassion and what is derived from it loving-kindness (or metta) is most important.

what do you think?

#2 noi'mnot

Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:03 PM

It's a bit of a "how not to be an a*s*hole" list, really. And, I think it's very much how many people try to live their lives, whether atheist or not.

Whilst compassion can be an aspect of some of the points on the list (like empathy, patience, self-awareness, forgiveness) it would have been a good addition - but 11 commandments doesn't really sound quite as good, does it?



#3 Lucrezia Borgia

Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:08 PM

Yes, I read the article this morning ...I think it's a good list.

I found it interesting he used the word "sacrifice"....I must admit its a concept I struggle with...especially in the Christian sense of what God sacrificed for mankind.....I was never fully comfortable with that aspect of Christian dogma....I know I am being too literal about it, I can't explain it very well.....

#4 RealityBites

Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:10 PM

Hmm, I like the general idea but they are all just qualities. Very New Testament. How does one go about cultivating a quality such as patience? (I am an intolerant, angry atheist who finds it very hard to forgive lol)

I like the directness of the Hebrew Scriptures 'Thou shalt not'. Much clearer with no unnecessary moral philosophy  biggrin.gif

ETA Lucretia, that was my first reaction too. What if I don't want to be a particularly 'good'/nice person?! One of the critiques of  morality in religion is that it is an overt (political) attempt to keep the masses under control.

Edited by RealityBites, 06 February 2013 - 01:11 PM.


#5 Phasmatis angelam

Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:10 PM

It looks to me like a fairly standard attempt at a system of virtues ethics - an approach to ethics which I believe goes back to Aristotle.

His list included courage, temperance, liberality, munificence, high-mindedness, right ambition, good temper, friendly civility, sincerity, wittiness, modesty and "just resentment" (which I think means something like righteous anger).

At other times other groups have had similar lists of virtues, like the medieval Christian "holy virtues": faith, hope, charity, prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice.

As you can see, different influences lead to the inclusion or dropping of different virtues, but there's still a lot of overlap.  We tend to be fairly consistent about what we consider as good character.

Personally, I tend to prefer other approaches to ethical thinking, but I think that's mostly about personality rather than the inherent worth of the different approaches.  Virtue ethical systems have a lot to be said for them.

If I were drawing up a list, love or one of its related terms (charity, compassion, whatever) would have to be pretty high on it.


#6 rosie28

Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:15 PM

I like the list, although I tend to think compassion should rate a mention. I'm stridently atheist, but I don't think there is anything wrong with "do unto others as you would have others do unto you" - surely if more people (religious people included) just kept to that, then we would be better off.

#7 Sweet like a lemon

Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:30 PM

I quite like the original 10 commandments without the religious bits.

- Don't Steal
- Don't Murder
-Don't cheat or lie
-Don't hit on married people and if you're married don't pretend you're single
- Do on to others as you would have done on to you
- Do not want for what others have
- Respect your parents
-Take a day to relax and be grateful for what you have

You could replace the God bits with show tolerance and remember you might right but you might also be wrong.




#8 Feral_Pooks

Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:38 PM

It's a bit meh, isn't it? Seems to be more about ME and how I can tolerate other people. I see us as being a bit more interconnected than that. But oh well. My ethics are far more related to kindness, challenging injustice, and considering how my actions impact the environment and others. I find this list to be lacking.

#9 Jax12

Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:49 PM

QUOTE (Pooks_ @ 06/02/2013, 11:38 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It's a bit meh, isn't it? Seems to be more about ME and how I can tolerate other people. I see us as being a bit more interconnected than that. But oh well. My ethics are far more related to kindness, challenging injustice, and considering how my actions impact the environment and others. I find this list to be lacking.

I don't know...these latest boys in toilets/change room threads have really highlighted to me a poor sense of community.  People saying my needs trump yours or vice versa.  I think it's worthwhile to take time and focus on your own tolerance, empathy and self-awareness...do we need a list like this?  For me, this thread has reminded me to stop and take stock of the values I'm instilling in my child and encourages me to look at the big picture and make sure I'm not missing anything...this list in particular?  I think everything in there is important but agree with PP in that it's a bit lacking.  I would hope that without a prescribed checklist I inherently posess and value these qualities, which will in turn be promoted to my children through my behaviour.

#10 niggles

Posted 06 February 2013 - 02:11 PM

Definitely missing a bit of 'just resentment' for me.

#11 Z-girls rock

Posted 06 February 2013 - 02:45 PM

QUOTE (Pooks_ @ 06/02/2013, 02:38 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It's a bit meh, isn't it? Seems to be more about ME and how I can tolerate other people. I see us as being a bit more interconnected than that. But oh well. My ethics are far more related to kindness, challenging injustice, and considering how my actions impact the environment and others. I find this list to be lacking.


yes. I agree.

challenging injustice is high on my personal ethics list too.

I am very interested/ alligned with the engaged Buddhist movement.

like with the list above - if you encountered someone behaving badly - like abusing an animal. Should you just have empathy for the animal and forgiveness for the person? (without taking action)

I dont think that this is good enough.
I dont think it is ethical.

Sure there could be both empathy and forgiveness but only if there was also an intervention - action of some sort to help the animal and help the person who was abusing it to learn about ethical treatment of animals...

#12 Phasmatis angelam

Posted 28 February 2013 - 01:14 PM

This discussion started me thinking and sent me searching for something to read.  I just wanted to pop back in and recommend this book.  I haven't even finished it yet, but I'm finding it very good food for thought!

#13 PrizzyII

Posted 28 February 2013 - 01:22 PM

Alain de Botton is the ethics equivalent of a White Wings cake mix is to baking.
Its all a bit obvious and sensible really.

#14 BadCat

Posted 28 February 2013 - 01:28 PM

It's a very nice list.  I'm sure he can hang it on his wall and score himself against it from time to time if it makes him happy.

Personally I don't see why atheists need commandments.  Not even ones in ironic quotation marks.  I find I can live my life perfectly well without instructions.  It's one of the reasons I'm not religious.

#15 BetteBoop

Posted 28 February 2013 - 06:28 PM

Just because I don't believe in God doesn't mean I need someone to tell me how to be a decent human.

#16 Phasmatis angelam

Posted 28 February 2013 - 06:36 PM

I always thought of virtue ethics as descriptive rather than prescriptive  unsure.gif

#17 BadCat

Posted 28 February 2013 - 07:49 PM

Perhaps so Ange.

I take issue with this list.  Why is a list for atheists?  Is there an assumption that atheists need guidelines because we can't figure this stuff out for ourselves?

#18 Phasmatis angelam

Posted 28 February 2013 - 07:56 PM

Nah, I think it's because atheists might not like the lists with things like faith in them!

Honestly, I don't get the angst.  Everyone has an ethical system - some more consciously than others, granted.  What's wrong with proposing a system which might seem particularly suited to people who don't want to take on board all the God stuff?

#19 BetteBoop

Posted 28 February 2013 - 08:19 PM

QUOTE (Ange Vert @ 28/02/2013, 07:56 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
What's wrong with proposing a system which might seem particularly suited to people who don't want to take on board all the God stuff?


Because we don't need one. And honestly, I'm bored to death with white guys telling everyone else how to live.

#20 BadCat

Posted 28 February 2013 - 08:26 PM

What BB said.

I don't have an issue with what's ON the list.  Just the fact that anyone thinks we need a list.   I mean really Ange, would you not have moral values and ethics if you didn't have the 10 commandments?  Would you run riot in the streets kicking puppies?

#21 Magnus

Posted 28 February 2013 - 08:33 PM

I think a lot of us 'don't want to take on the God stuff' partly because we're rebellious and don't want a clear-cut system that tells us how to act or think. So I guess we might as well just join an organised religion if we didn't want to sort it out for ourselves.*

*Not that I'm against religion and I also acknowledge that religious people do a lot of thinking about how to practice their religion, which branch to follow and which tenets to accept/ reject etc.

#22 Phasmatis angelam

Posted 28 February 2013 - 08:35 PM

QUOTE (O TheHugeManatee @ 28/02/2013, 09:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I don't have an issue with what's ON the list.  Just the fact that anyone thinks we need a list.   I mean really Ange, would you not have moral values and ethics if you didn't have the 10 commandments?  Would you run riot in the streets kicking puppies?


No, I think you missed my point.  (I don't even feel the ten commandments apply to me).  

But I do think that we all - no matter what stripe of belief or unbelief we are - have an ethical system.  I don't have a problem with being encouraged to think about that and perhaps refine it.  Is it really bad to think about ethics?  That's where the angst eludes me.

#23 Magnus

Posted 28 February 2013 - 08:43 PM

I do think we should think about ethics. I don't know if narrowing it down to some sort of pithy list counts as thinking about ethics for me?

I feel like my ethics is more of a work-in-progress and something that I think through all the time and that gets challenged all the time in day-to-day circumstances.

I think ethics is important and that's why I wouldn't reduce mine to a philosophy lite list.

#24 LucidDream

Posted 28 February 2013 - 08:45 PM

QUOTE (O TheHugeManatee @ 28/02/2013, 08:49 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I take issue with this list. Why is a list for atheists? Is there an assumption that atheists need guidelines because we can't figure this stuff out for ourselves?


Self-help books aren't going to buy themselves.

#25 BetteBoop

Posted 28 February 2013 - 08:49 PM

QUOTE (Magnus @ 28/02/2013, 08:43 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I do think we should think about ethics. I don't know if narrowing it down to some sort of pithy list counts as thinking about ethics for me?

I feel like my ethics is more of a work-in-progress and something that I think through all the time and that gets challenged all the time in day-to-day circumstances.

I think ethics is important and that's why I wouldn't reduce mine to a philosophy lite list.


Yes.

Perhaps if I thought Eat, Pray, Love was a spiritual revelation, I would gain enlightenment from a set of rules that are designed to take all the heavy lifting out of making ethical choices.

I prefer to do my thinking for myself.




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