Humanists of Greater Portland Meetup Message Board › What are Humanist books that teach a system of morals?

What are Humanist books that teach a system of morals?

Gavin
Atheistic-ExJW
Beaverton, OR
Post #: 2,161
What are Humanist books that teach a system of morals (or help a person develop their own), including dealing with moral dilemmas? I don't mean books for children, other than ones which will instill a love for goodness in children (I personally know some tiny children who enjoy physically hurting their brothers and sisters, despite diligent efforts by their loving Christian mother to stop them). I have looked and looked for such books since the time I left Christianity and theism, but I can't find them. I get the impression that they don't really exist and that most Humanists don't want them (and that to most of them the idea of a moral guidebook is undesirable). But I want to the do the right things and thus I want to know what is the right actions are. While I have certain principles which I live by (to a large degree these are the same I practiced when I was still a Christian), that is not entirely sufficient. Also it seems that from a Humanist perspective, ethics and morality are largely relative. But if that is so, then doesn't make Shari Law morality/ethics just as moral and ethical as Humanism? I need help in this subject, not just for myself but in order to answer questions of my Christian friends who want to know how atheists and Humanist derive a system of ethics/morality that is not merely arbitrary in nature.

I know about utilitarianism and similar ideas but I see them as having limitations, since people in different cultures would draw conflicting moral ideas in a number of cases while using such ideas. To me that means the ethicals/morals drawn from such as largely arbitrary, and I find that very disturbing.

While there is a book called "The Good Book: A Humanist Bible" that is not the sort of book I am looking for. What I am looking is a self-help type of book or a book which teaches an organized system of ethics/morals, based upon social science, sound logic, and/or sound use of philosophy.

If Humanism doesn't really have books which teaches an organized system of ethics/morals, then I consider that a major deficiency of Humanism. I would also consider it a major hindrance to trying to use Humanism to make the world a more moral/ethical place, including counteracting many of atrocities (from a Humanist perspective) of what is done in many cultures under Shari law. An example of one such atrocity is so-called "honor killing", yet the people doing it think they are acting morally/ethically in response to the rape of their daughers and in other situations. They are thinking like utilitarians, but in a non-Humanistic way, when they (the parents of the abused daugher) end their emotional suffering, the emotional suffering of their community, and of their abused daugher, when they murder the daughter, but we consider such a choice of theirs to be the wrong one. That is one example of how I don't see utilitarianism as being a suffiencient guide in matters of morals/ethics.

I hope that someone other than Bernie will help with this, as I don't see eye to eye with Bernie on this topic.
Kurt
kujo78
Happy Valley, OR
Post #: 144
I think Paul Kurtz wrote several books about humanist morality.
Marsha
mwhitabel
Beaverton, OR
Post #: 2
Hi, Gavin! Long time no talk! There are many humanist books that teach morals. I'm going to list some we have or that I have read. You can get some from the library; some are harder to find. (1) Treatise of Human Nature: Book III: Morals by David Hume (I just found out you can download this); (2) The Moral Sense, by James Q. Wilson, who says that a moral sense is in our biology (humanist thought) (3) The Philosophy of Humanism by Corliss Lamont (President Emeritus of the American Humanist Association)

The great thing about these books (I will try to find more - I'm just answering quickly) is that, UNLIKE THE BIBLE, they don't have tales that justify rape, incest, taking of virgins as war spoils, children killed by bears, and hell fire for people who goof and don't obey an invisible, unspeaking supernatural being! Humans CAN and do create morals; humanism is a moral and ethical philosophy.

Speaking of wanting TEXTBOOKS for morality (which people SUPPOSE the Bible is, but I say it's NOT), I just saw this great quote from the movie Dogma: I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should be malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can’t generate. Life becomes stagnant.”
Chris Rock’s character, Rufus, in the movie Dogma.

So my old church's belief that women must stay silent in church in 2013, because a guy named Paul told a group of people in Corinth that centuries ago - that belief is useless for moral teaching. The idea they had that women were inferior has changed over time and we (humanists, feminists) have a NEW idea that women are equal.

What is it that you and Bernie disagree about, on this? I would think you are both humanists?? Marsha :)
Marsha
mwhitabel
Beaverton, OR
Post #: 3
Gavin, I forgot to mention the Humanist Manifestos I, II and the newest one III.
Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,471
Marsha wrote:
"What is it that you and Bernie disagree about, on this?"

Hi Marsha, my viewpoint is that morality can be largely evaluated under a three-pronged rubric of consequentialism, reciprocity, and individual free rights. Each specific moral question is different and has different elements for those three considerations. Some moral issues are very easy to resolve, but some are tricky because there may be different parts of the rubric at play, such as consequentialism vs. individual free rights.

Many atheists appeal to "feelings," which I'm strongly against (because it depends on subconscious processing rather than conscious thinking).
Marsha
mwhitabel
Beaverton, OR
Post #: 4
Individual people have different ways of dealing with emotions vs rationality, but Humanism with a capital "H" doesn't advocate "feelings" as a guide to anything.
Gavin
Atheistic-ExJW
Beaverton, OR
Post #: 2,162
Thanks folks for the ideas. I have a Jesus-like saying (for an atheist Bible-like handbook that I am writing) that is "Happy are the atheists, for they are in greater touch with reality." Interestingly there will be an atheist billboard in California that says "Atheism: A personal relationship with reality." See http://www.kpbs.org/n...­ for more information.

An alternate Jesus-like saying of mine is "Happy are the atheists, for they are in touch with reality."
Gavin
Atheistic-ExJW
Beaverton, OR
Post #: 2,163
Individual people have different ways of dealing with emotions vs rationality, but Humanism with a capital "H" doesn't advocate "feelings" as a guide to anything.

Not even as a guide to what you like and dislike and to what makes you happier?
Marsha
mwhitabel
Beaverton, OR
Post #: 5
Gavin, I meant Humanism doesn't advocate creating ethics based on "feelings." Obviously humans are very emotional animals who use emotions in making choices every day. But when it comes to building a society, rational thinking serves us better than emotions.

By the way, there are quite a few books that are full of quotes from other atheists through the ages. Do you have a copy of a little book called "The Atheist's Bible: An Illustrious Collection of Irreverent Thoughts," by
Joan Konner or "2,000 Years of Disbelief," edited by James A. Haught, or "The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever," by Christopher Hitchens? They are some valuable resources for wise thoughts and writings of nonbelievers. The first is small and fun; the others are big books with a lot more weighty writings. My FIRST "atheist" book (when I was just escaping the Church of Christ) was "Women Without Superstition: No Gods No Masters," by Annie Laurie Gaylor (of Freedom from Religion Foundation). Another big book, it will make you realize that there have been a LOT of atheist women through the ages. Their views and writings have been suppressed in our culture for years, though.
Gavin
Atheistic-ExJW
Beaverton, OR
Post #: 2,164
Gavin, I meant Humanism doesn't advocate creating ethics based on "feelings." Obviously humans are very emotional animals who use emotions in making choices every day. But when it comes to building a society, rational thinking serves us better than emotions.

By the way, there are quite a few books that are full of quotes from other atheists through the ages. Do you have a copy of a little book called "The Atheist's Bible: An Illustrious Collection of Irreverent Thoughts," by
Joan Konner or "2,000 Years of Disbelief," edited by James A. Haught, or "The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever," by Christopher Hitchens? They are some valuable resources for wise thoughts and writings of nonbelievers. The first is small and fun; the others are big books with a lot more weighty writings. My FIRST "atheist" book (when I was just escaping the Church of Christ) was "Women Without Superstition: No Gods No Masters," by Annie Laurie Gaylor (of Freedom from Religion Foundation). Another big book, it will make you realize that there have been a LOT of atheist women through the ages. Their views and writings have been suppressed in our culture for years, though.

The points I had made (in a different forum) were not an apeal to feelings, but rather me stating my observations that ethical values are rooted in emotional feelings even when people try to base them upon purely rational thinking. I have seen the Atheist's Bible and the Portable Atheist in Powell's bookstore, but I never bought those books nor read much from them.
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