Where do we get our morals? By Simon Nightingale of Shropshire Humanists

On 15 January 2019, the main lecture theatre at the University Centre in Shrewsbury was full with standing room only to listen to a discussion between Simon Nightingale, Chairman of Shropshire Humanists and Peter Bellingham, Pastor of the Well in Shrewsbury. This is Simon’s presentation. Peter’s was posted yesterday.

I recognise some fellow humanists out there and there may be others among you who live without religion and who won’t be surprised by what I’m going say.

In some ways it’s more important for me to talk to those of you with religious faith about non-religious morality. You see – when I speak to religious groups or interfaith groups, the issue they’re always most interested in, what really puzzles them is where non-religious people get their moral values – without the benefit of a Bible or Koran or Torah, Like Dostoyevsky they assume “If God is dead, then everything is permitted”.

And then they ask “anyway even if you can work out some sort of moral values, why do you bother to follow them?” Which is a rather different question – a good question that also needs answering.

So this evening I’ll talk about where non-religious people, like humanists, get their morals. At the end if I have time or during the discussions, I’ll talk a bit about what motivates us to do what we’ve worked out is right and how we can encourage both others and ourselves to do the right thing.
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Where do we get our morals? By Peter Bellingham, Pastor of the Well

On 15 January 2019, the main lecture theatre at the University Centre in Shrewsbury was full with standing room only to listen to a discussion between Simon Nightingale, Chairman of Shropshire Humanists and Peter Bellingham, Pastor of the Well in Shrewsbury. This is Peter’s presentation. Simon’s will follow tomorrow.

It’s such a joy to be here in discussion with my friend and neighbour, Simon Nightingale. I love talking with Simon; we’ve spent many hours lively conversation – and I look forward to many more. My first contact with Simon was indirect. My wife and I lived in Honduras when my mother-in-law Jill was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. As her condition worsened, Simon went out of his way to arrange a place for her in the hospice. This wasn’t a one-time kindness. When I told an elderly friend I’d be debating Simon she said she’ll never forget Simon’s kindness in seeking her out at the hospital when he was treating her severely epileptic son. Humanists want to promote care for others and Simon shows the type of kindness worthy of the name.

Tonight we’re discussing where we get our morals from, or ‘how do we know what’s the right thing to do.’ Not as an academic exercise, interesting though that would be. But rather, to see if there’s something we need to realize so we can do a better job at running our lives and running the world.

Morality means the distinction between right and wrong. A moral person typically makes a distinction between right and wrong, and lives according to what’s right. An immoral person makes the distinction but lives according to what’s wrong. An amoral person makes no distinction between right and wrong.

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Where do we get our morals? A discussion between a Humanist and a Christian

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John Nightingale, Simon Nightingale and Peter Bellingham

On the evening of Tuesday, 15 January the main lecture theatre at the University Centre in Shrewsbury was full with standing room only to listen to a discussion between Simon Nightingale, Chairman of Shropshire Humanists and Peter Bellingham, Pastor of the Well in Shrewsbury.

Peter and Simon are neighbours and friends who enjoy chatting about philosophy and theology over coffee and cake. They have come to appreciate that their moral values are similar despite very different worldviews.

They decided to have this public discussion to explain where each of them obtains their moral values. It was not an adversarial debate with winners or losers, but more of a discussion between friends to help Christians understand the basis of non-religious morality and help Humanists and others who live without religion to understand the Christian perspective.

The meeting was chaired by the Reverend John Nightingale, a retired Church of England vicar and Simon’s brother! After an introduction and a toss of a coin by John, Peter talked for 20 minutes followed by Simon for the same. There was then about an hour of lively questions and discussion with the audience before Peter and Simon each summed up.

The text of each of the initial 20 minute presentations by Simon and Peter is being posted in separate articles, and later the video of the whole meeting will be available on YouTube and linked to here.

Two perspectives on Humanism

This was one of the 5-minute presentations at the Hot Potatoes open mike session on 17 January 2019. By Mike Radford

The French humanist philosopher and anthropologist Claude Levi Strauss described two types of humanism. The first may be referred to as ‘enlightenment man humanism’ and the second ‘ethnological humanism’.

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21 March: Talk Yourself Better, by Ariane Sherine

Comedy writer and journalist Ariane Sherine created and organised the Atheist Bus Campaign, persuading Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association to support her – and buses with variations on the slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” ran in 13 countries across the globe.

As a result, Ariane received an Inbox full of hate mail from Christians, which eventually led to a major nervous breakdown and suicidal ideation. She ended her journalistic career, and didn’t write again for over three years. In this talk, she will tell the full story of how therapy and medication saved her life, prompting her to write her new book, Talk Yourself Better: A Confused Person’s Guide to Therapy, Counselling and Self-Help. Ariane will be signing copies of Talk Yourself Better after the talk.

Ariane also wrote the bestselling celebrity book The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas. She has written for BBC1’s My Family, Channel 4’s Countdown and BBC2’s Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, as well as for The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, The Mail on Sunday, New Statesman, New Humanist and The Spectator. She lives in London with her seven-year-old daughter, Lily.

Radio: humanist and pastor discuss morality

Discussion on BBC Radio Shropshire between Peter Bellingham, Pastor of The Well in Shrewsbury, and Dr Simon Nightingale of Shropshire Humanists. Listen on the timeline between 1.10.30 to 1.49.40.

Don’t forget their public discussion at University Centre Shrewsbury on Tuesday 15 January 2019, 7.30pm.  All welcome, admission free.

 

17 January meeting: Hot Potatoes (open mike session). Come along and speak your mind!

Once again, we are opening the floor at our January meeting to all of our members. Anyone can speak for 5 minutes (absolute maximum 10 minutes) on a topic of their own choice that is in some way related to humanism. It can be a personal account or an objective review. The idea is that you talk about something that interests you, and you interest us!  You can use PowerPoint if you wish, but that is not essential. Please email the chairman with the title of your planned talk to prevent duplication.

Thursday 17  January at 7.30 pm, University Centre Shrewsbury, Guildhall, Frankwell Quay, Shrewsbury SY3 8HQ. All welcome. A voluntary contribution is requested for room hire and refreshments.

You are very welcome to come for tea and coffee from 7 pm to meet and chat with other members and guests.

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