Global Secular Ethics

“Global secular ethics are now more important than the classical religions.” - The Dalai Lama

The None & Some Project is mapping the trend and reality which the Dalai Lama observes. In an opinion piece in the LA Times, the Dalai Lama and Tenzin Gyatso, urge President Trump to take on a global perspective rather than a narrow nationalist one. I am not hopeful that Trump will head their advice. Still, the fact observed is true for all of us; we live in a interdependent global context in which global secular ethics are now more important than the classical religions in overcoming divisions and guiding us to coexist together, and this is increasingly true.

Each of the individuals interviewed for the None & Some expresses the dynamics of the trend toward global secular ethics. For example, Melissa holds up a very reasoned questioning of religious doctrine while simultaneously valuing for herself and her children a formation into relationship with something higher and bigger than onesself. She participates with her family - with sporadic regularity - in the life a mainline protestant congregation for some of this formation, but it is also not sufficient. How are we, can we be formed in global secular ethics? Joe critiques the tendency of religions to divide and to too narrowly define us, “It forces us to define ourselves in a  way that is exclusionary…Where I don’t see the world in a binary way. It’s not good versus evil resists. That’s too simple.” And at the same time, Joe feels an absence of the old, given form of community-forming which a religion and other local community-based organizations afforded. How do we form communities locally in and around a global secular ethic? 

I hadn’t been able to succinctly express what the trend was I was feeling and hearing, other than a trend toward the spiritual but not religious and this has started to feel far too empty of content or form. In the None & Some interviews and in the live Queer Faith storytelling event we’ve hosted, I’ve sensed a craving for a more substantial body of meaning; one which guides and gathers along the lines that religious communities used to do.  Global Secular Ethics may be that body. 

Where are global secular ethics housed? Where are they / is it taught? How do we access community around it? These are the questions now. 

I feel a need to note that “secular” in the context of global secular ethics, need not stay defined as that which is not or in opposition to religious. In the contact of a global orientation - a sense of the whole, and in a frame of ethics - of right relation with self and other, "secular" takes on a spiritual sensibility.  What is spiritual if not a sensibility which orients us to self and other in respect for the parts' relationship to a greater whole? Global secular ethics need not define itself as spiritual but I think it important to observe that it can.

The full LA Times opinion piece by The Dalai Lama and Tenzin Gaytso is definitely worth a read. 

Thanks, Lindsey

Lindsey Peterson