There are inherent values to guide human behavior that are essential for human survival on planet earth.
That is a strong sweeping statement. I wish to unpack it . . . notice there is no mention of God in the statement. It does not mean that God has been rejected or left out; it means the statement is applicable whether or not one holds a belief in God.
First let me make a statement about God, as I understand it. When you think about a consciousness (God) that created life, the world and this vast wondrous universe you necessarily realize it is so beyond our capacity to grasp that you have to know that no group of people—no church, no nation; not theologians nor agnostics--can define or explain the phenomenon, so those insisting they know all the answers and have the right formula are wrong.
From that starting point, I say we can take some tentative steps toward recognizing what a creator (if there was one) who brought forth this beautiful delicately balanced world and life, would want from those creatures displaying the marvelous human quality of reflective awareness (reasoning). It would surely be to appreciate the wonder and continue to create and flourish, not destroy it all.
Next statement I would make concerns inherent values . . . every society since the beginning of time—no, rather let me say since the beginning of reflective awareness—has looked beyond the immediate seeking answers. Answers to ‘what is the best way to capture the game?’ ‘How should we protect ourselves?’ And ‘what is out there bringing this all about?’ They come to different answers but the quest is universal. The desire to know and to understand is simply a part of being human. In that desire to know and understand, if we look, we will find ways of being that support life and ways that oppose it.
Once we didn’t know how to extend communication beyond speech and writing; now we have phones and computers to instantly convey information.
Once we had only horses, oxen, elephants and camels to transport our goods and us; now we have cars, trains and planes for that.
Once we gave consideration to only ourselves, our family and our nation to prosper; but now we must look beyond that and realize we are one world and we have the ability to destroy it . . . and our lack of foresight has allowed that to become a real threat.
We have thus far ignored looking deeply into ethics and values, but now it is incumbent upon us if we are to avoid self-destruction.
About 125 years ago all the world religions began to dialogue, seeking a common core of values. In 1993 The Parliament of World’s Religions, after years of work, produced the document Toward a Global Ethic that was signed by 200 representatives of all world religions. That document has been translated into nearly all languages and is available on the Internet.
The fact that all religions could come to an agreement, looking beyond their differences and see that we are all interconnected by common values is amazing! Our humanness is supported by shared inherent values recognizable by our reflective awareness.
The 5 fundamental ethical demands are:
1. Commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life.
2. Commitment to a culture of solidarity and just economic order
3. Commitment to a culture of tolerance and a life of truth
4. Commitment to a culture of equal rights for all races and genders
5. Commitment to a culture of sustainability and care for the earth
Only when we come to recognize the truth and necessity of these principles can we step back from the impending disaster we are now faced with.
If there is a God (and I believe there is) I think that God would care less about how people pray or if they pray at all, so much as about how they live their lives in accordance to a moral and ethical order, how they cared for and sustained this wonderful life-giving planet, and how they finally learned to love their neighbor as themselves.
I encourage readers to search the Web for Toward a Global Ethic.