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? 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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Birmingham Humanists meeting, 21 November: Ariane Sherine

You may be interested in the next meeting of Birmingham Humanists, at 7.30pm on Wednesday, 21 November. Ariane Sherine, the comedy writer and journalist who created the Atheist Bus Campaign, as well as the bestselling celebrity book The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas, will be giving a talk, based on her new book Talk yourself better.

The meeting will be held at Moseley Exchange, 149–153 Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham B13 8JP.

We’ve all watched films and telly programmes featuring therapists, such as The Sopranos – but what’s the best way to access therapy in real life if you’re not a mafia boss? What’s the difference between therapy and counselling, or CBT and psychoanalysis? And why pay a stranger to listen to you in the first place? Can’t a good friend provide a shoulder to cry on?

In her talk Ariane will answer all these questions and more, demystifying once and for all the secret world of therapy – with plenty of laughs along the way. She’ll also be signing copies of Talk yourself better after the talk.

Ariane 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 Observer, New Statesman and The Spectator.

Please note: this event is not organised by Shropshire Humanists.

Videos from our meeting: Humanism in Action

At our September meeting, humanists talked about their activities.

Maxine Beech talked about her job conducting humanists weddings, funerals and baby-naming:

Sue Falder on humanist pastoral Care and chaplaincy:

Education in schools by Simon Nightingale:

The full meeting:

20 September meeting: Humanism in Action

P1030393-shrewsbury square - smThis meeting will showcase the work of humanists in three important areas:-

Maxine Beech, a Humanist Celebrant, will talk about baby namings, weddings and funerals.
Sue Falder, a Pastoral Support Volunteer, will talk about humanist “chaplaincy” work in healthcare, prisons and universities.
Simon Nightingale, a Volunteer School Speaker, will talk about going into RE classes to explain the basis of humanism.

There will be a general discussion of the importance of these activities and available training.

Thursday 20 September, 7.30 pm, at University Centre Shrewsbury, Guildhall, Frankwell Quay, Shrewsbury SY3 8HQ. All welcome, but voluntary donations requested.

You are very welcome to arrive at 7 pm for coffee/tea and to chat to other members and visitors.

Carol does it again: Garden celebrating humanist ceremonies wins top prizes at Shrewsbury Flower Show

Carol Seager, a member of Shropshire Humanists, has repeated her success from 2017, winning again a Large Gold Medal and the Mike Hough Memorial Trophy for best outdoor show garden. This garden is part of the show theme ‘Times Gone By’ and is entitled ‘Dawn till Dusk’. Its centrepiece is a sundial, a way of marking the passing of time, a metaphor for life’s journey marked by the ceremonies of baby namings, weddings and funerals.

The garden places humanism and humanist ceremonies and the celebrants who officiate at them in front of tens of thousands of visitors to the show.

Congratulations to Carol, Chris and Carol’s team of helpers!

More information later, and we hope to take some pictures in the sunshine on Saturday.



 

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