Values To Live By
This morning at Church (or meeting house, define it how you will, it doesn’t affect me) we had a presentation by a Kansas man Michael Jones.
Michael is an atheist and presented material of the rich vastness and sheer magnificence of the Universe to demonstrate how utterly insignificant we are and also how human thought has evolved over time.
I believe that history is an imperative topic for our children to study – and a lot of my thinking has to do with the common threads of not only myth and legends but also in thought and values. I find this a reassuring element to our lives, believing that if a certain value is reflected across many religious groups, then there is often a fundamental (soul) truth.
Take, for example, the Golden Rule:
As a Unitarian, there are no set of rules to live by. No person or entity has prepared a list of rules, as in The Ten Commandments. By definition, then, I am called to research, and come to conclusions that work for me.
For example, let’s assume that ‘It’s wrong to kill’. This is a sentiment that yes, I agree with. But it is not enough to follow that rule because it has been fed to me as a societal or religious norm. I must seek within to question why I uphold this belief. I might read books, meditate or pray, engage in conversations, I might even consider my own intuition. All these are valid in the search for Truth.
But of course such a value for prescriptive living as “It’s wrong to kill” is fraught with complexities. Most people will look at such a statement and say, “of course it is” or “I believe that too”. But do you? Do I? Really?
If someone was threatening the life of one of my children, would I then kill in order to preserve the life of my child? Yes.
If my own life was being threatened by someone with a gun to my head and I was somehow able to kill first, would I? Yes.
When we say, it’s wrong to kill, are we talking humans? Because if we’re not meant to kill humans, why is it acceptable to kill an animal? Certainly not for food within the society in which we presently live. And then if it’s not acceptable to kill animals, is it acceptable to kill plants or trees? If so, why or why not? If we are talking humans, then how do we define the word ‘human’ – is a fetus a human? At what point does a fetus become a human? How does this impact views on termination/abortion?
If someone is anti-abortion but eats meat, then I would really question how these two differences can co-exist within the same person.
You see where I’m going with this, huh? Suddenly, the statement: “It’s wrong to kill” takes on kleidoscopic dimensions.
And so, the values that we live by – either as they are given to us by a God or Gods or parents or teachers or government are not our own, until we take the time to challenge them at a real and fundamental level.
I am not threatened by the fact that if we took away societal mores or religious rules that anarchy would reign. I like to imagine that we, as humans, have a neo-cortex that affords us the capability to reason, to analyze. To hypothesize.
That said, it does require that we are thinkers. We don’t form our values based on what is the general consensus on Facebook on a particular issue. We question, we use our brains.
And so, today, I sit here and reflect on my personal values. What are those values that I choose to live by?
This is what I’ll be reflecting deeply on this week. I might even share some ideas here.
Feel free to share your values below, I’d love to hear your view!
Acknowledgements: This original English version was prepared by Paul McKenna.
Published by Scarboro Missions (Toronto, Canada)
Copyright © Scarboro Missions 2000