ethics and the religion of humanity

November? How’d it get to be November already? October really flies when you’re in the World Series.

But it’s time to turn the page and think ahead. Not too far ahead, Spring Training doesn’t start for another three and a half months. Since weaning myself from football, on ethical grounds, I’m down to one spectator sport. (I like basketball well enough, I just don’t like being indoors.)  In theory that should mean more time and attention for reality.

Reality. What a concept.

Yesterday I turned my attention to next semester and the reprised Atheism & Philosophy course we begin in January. Two years ago it was Atheism & Spirituality. This time the focus is on ethics, and an attempt to think through William James’s claim in “Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life” that we can be good (or bad, or indifferent) without any external support.

Whether a God exist, or whether no God exist… we form at any rate an ethical republic here below. And the first reflection which this leads to is that ethics have as genuine and real a foothold in a universe where the highest consciousness is human, as in a universe where there is a God as well. “The religion of humanity” affords a basis for ethics as well as theism does.

That rings so true to me that I’ve never really challenged it. Dostoevsky was just wrong, I’ve insisted: if a God doesn’t exist there are still plenty of things not “permitted.” Sartre was wrong too: you don’t have to embody a God-given essence in order to exist as an ethically-bound individual, and community standards are not arbitrary for being sui generis. We are social animals, we possess a capacity for compassion and mutual concern, our goodness (and badness and indifference) are natural. This I believe.

But it’s not enough merely to believe, if you call yourself a philosopher. So we’ll see. Should be a good course.

Now, though, back to present reality. We’re taking a breather in SOL, if you can call an exam that, but will get back shortly to JMH and her “Bodies” chapters. “You are not in your body. You are your body.” That’s why my morning coffee can pack such an existential punch, and that about wraps it up for Cartesian dualism. Right?

Now that’s a “reality” question. But, did you catch Letterman and Leno last night?

One more thing: how about novel writing as sport? Or endurance test? It’s time for NaNoWriMo

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