Monday, February 4, 2013

Thou Shalt...

Writer Alain de Botton, "in an attempt to promote overlooked virtues including resilience and humour," has created a "Manifesto for Atheists," that includes 10 virtues. Ten was perhaps an unfortunate choice, as the virtues are already being terms "the 10 Commandments for atheists." The ten items strike me as rather mundane and the sort of traits that one wants to raise children to have, as if de Botton had cribbed a page or two from Robert Fulghum's "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."

  1. Resilience.
  2. Empathy.
  3. Patience.
  4. Sacrifice.
  5. Politeness.
  6. Humour.
  7. Self-Awareness.
  8. Forgiveness.
  9. Hope.
  10. Confidence.
Of course, like any reasonably intelligent set of virtues, it's kind of difficult to understand why these relate particularly to people who don't believe in deities, rather than just people in general. It seems that Jainism have a use for Humor and that Shinto wouldn't have anything against Resilience.

Perhaps, were it up to me, I would replace Hope with Honesty. Not only in the sense of being willing to speak the truth even when it is uncomfortable, but in expecting and encouraging others to be open and honest. We've allowed our society to become one in which lies are a social lubricant, to the degree that the truth is something that we find irritating. I would pick Hope to remove because Hope and Confidence strike me as being roughly the same, only differing in their "direction," as it were. Where Confidence strikes me as the belief that one can change the world (all of it, or just one's own corner) for the better, I tend to understand Hope as the belief that world will be changed for the better. And if I had chose only one, I find Confidence to be more useful.

In any event, it will be interesting to see how far this goes. Given the fact that there isn't a unified community of people who don't believe in something or other, I suspect that it won't garner any more than a small following. But that's okay. Virtue, fortunately, is the same, regardless of the pieces that one uses to build it.

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