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.

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.

 

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

A dscussion between Peter Bellingham, Pastor at the Well in Shrewsbury, and Simon Nightingale, Chair of Shropshire Humanists.

Tuesday 15 January at 7.30 pm, University Centre Shrewsbury, Guildhall, Frankwell Quay, Shrewsbury SY3 8HQ. All welcome. Entrance is free and no ticket is required.

Peter Bellingham, Pastor at the Well in Shrewsbury, and Simon Nightingale, Chair of Shropshire Humanists, are next door neighbours and good friends. Their beliefs are different for Peter is a Christian and Simon a Humanist. However their moral values are very similar.

On the 15th of January they are meeting to discuss how they reach these moral values. It is not an adversarial debate, but a discussion to help Christians understand the basis of humanist morality and vice versa.

The audience will have an opportunity for questions and comments.

The meeting will be chaired by the Reverend John Nightingale, a Christian and also Simon’s brother.

Online now: Simon Nightingale on moral decisions and trolleyology

exphilSimon Nightingale, our chairman, spoke on BBC Radio Shropshire’s “Pause for Thought” today.

Simon’s talk discusses how our instinctive moral decisions are often very good, but sometimes can lead us astray. He illustrates this with examples of thought experiments known as trolleyology. If you would like to read more about how intuition can lead us astray – try Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. For an entertaining account of trolley-ology and a simple review of normative ethics, try Would you Kill the Fat Man by David Edmonds.

Listen between 1:19:15 and 1:25:30 on the time-line. It is available to listen to for the next 29 days.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03cgmnp#play

Everyday humanism: How should we live?

One reason people leave religions behind is to escape the rules they impose on daily life. But does humanism have its own codes?

How should a humanist live? Wary of religious dogma, humanists are often reluctant to talk about how one “ought” to live. Secularism, a reaction to the political dominance of this dogma, is focused on what the state shouldn’t do, on what people should be free to decide for themselves. This is surely good. Yet while it should be no business of the state, the question remains: how should a humanist live?

This is the challenge set to 12 humanist writers whose essays fill Everyday Humanism, a book that aims to go beyond the discussions of Meaning, the State and the Good (what the editors call “macro-ethics”) to more regular, down-to-earth and, well, everyday issues faced by humanists. The book’s contributors hail from a variety of backgrounds, from professors to chaplains to campaigners, and between them they try to paint a picture of how the everyday humanist should live.

Read the article here.

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