My Beliefs

Carl Sagan may have said it best. He defined science as "informed worship." And describes "the philosophies of Spinoza and Einstein, who basically considered God the sum total of all the laws of physics. These laws, he emphasizes again and again, govern not just the Earth and humanity but every solar system and every star and every galaxy. They are not local ordinances." From Washington Post Book Review of The Varieties of Scientific Experience

I think the Buddhists and the Taoists have it right, but Jesus got it right, too -- see Mathew 25:31-46. Since we don't know what comes after this life we should focus on treating other people well and improving the world. Start first with yourself, then your friends, your neighborhood and work up to the world. Pick up litter, vote, volunteer, give money to charities that help the environment, the poor, and fight for the little people against powerful corporations and interest groups.

I don't think it's important what you believe. What's important is how you treat other people. People throughout history have used their belief in God to justify killing others and taking their land. In fact, the Old Testament is a history book full of those sorts of stories. The Jewish prophets claimed that God had spoken to them and told them to take the land and kill the people living there.

I think most people are basically good, but there's bad in each of us, which comes out at certain times (times of stress, associating with the wrong group, drinking too much).

Writing a code of ethics for yourself, might help you think of the good things you'd like to do, and will help you realize when you, or others, have started down the wrong path.

A Code of Ethics

Here's the simplest code of ethics: Be nice to yourself and others.

If you need more than that here's a list:

  • Don't abuse your body
  • Don't hurt anyone
  • Give to charity
  • Help others
  • Be a vegetarian as often as you can
  • Keep an open mind
  • Pursue knowledge
  • If someone does something nice for you, do something nice for 10 other people. If someone asks how to repay you, tell them to do something nice for 10 other people.
  • Vote
  • Think of how your actions can make society a better place

    But you may ask, if there's no god, why should we do nice things for other people? Christians believe that a world of athiests would be a world full of thieves and murderers. They believe people will only do good if they fear punishment. But you can turn around and ask them, if there were no god, would you start stealing from others? Would you lie more?

    The Science of Good and Evil answers how and why there are good evolutionary reasons that moral behavior and ethics evolved in early humans; why we treat some people altruisticly and other groups we go to war.

    Buddhist - Eightfold Noble Path: Four Right Procedures: 1) Prevent evil from starting, 2) remove evil as soon as it starts, 3) do good deeds, 4) encourage good deeds to grow.

    Taoist - Look for happiness wherever you are. Ancient China for Kids - Taoism & Winnie-the-Pooh
    United Religions Initiative - Taoism

    Also check out Secular Humanism and Freethought on Wikipedia. Also the Religous Tolerance Website has a list of interesting discussion topics. Although this site preaches (forgive the pun) religious tolerance, I'm in agreement with Sam Harris that we shouldn't tolerate religions that advocate killing, or don't give women the same rights as men.

    I was brought up to believe in God. We said grace each night before dinner, but my parents never talked about religion or what they believed, and I never saw either of them reading the Bible. Every Sunday, we put on our best clothes and went to a Methodist church. They attended services and I went to Sunday school. But after a while my dad stopped going, then I stopped going, and eventually my mom stopped to. But as I got older, and learned about all the different religious all over the world, I wondered how anyone could know which one was the true religion. I assumed there must be one true religion, because everyone believed in God, except crazy people like atheists, so He must exist, right?

    The only discussion of religion I remember was when my mom and dad switched from one Methodist church to another. Our old church, the one we lived nearest, underwent an expensive modernization and called upon the parishoners to help pay for it. Since my parents didn't think money should be used that way, they found another church, much further away.

    My mother and father supported charities (my mom even to her last month on earth) I remember her contributions to Christian children's fund, where the child we were helping wrote thank you letters to us.