Could ethics be more important than religion?

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In a world in which refugees are seeking safety in ever greater numbers, the Dalai Lama, the world’s most prominent refugee, purports to know no enemies and feel no hatred. Even though the Chinese have occupied Tibet and taken away his homeland, he still prays for them and their leaders. He also says that ethics are more important than religion because, while we don’t arrive in the world as a member of a particular religion, we are born with a sense of ethics.

The ethical qualities of love, compassion and peace are at the basis of all religions but mankind is doing his best to kill them with his desire for power over others, causing cruel war and the desperate plight of refugees.  Ethics, on the other hand, demand power over oneself. Power over oneself isn’t easy. Living ethically demands practice, patience and self-discipline with an ample helping of learned self knowledge. It also asks us to question our new Western religions of overindulgence, money, excessive materialism and our worship of the numbing god in the corner of the room, the television.

Ethics, the Dalai Lama suggests, leads to happiness, and modern research into neuroscience certainly backs him up. It would seem that altruism is not only more rewarding than egotism but also that the human brain is actually programmed to be happy. The fact is that we like helping people – it makes us feel good. Moreover, we can’t bear seeing others hurting. The horrific photographs coming out of Syria have begun to shock us out of our complacency but we need to act more ethically if we want to begin to transform suffering in a meaningful and lasting way.

Most of us in the Western World have far more than we need – if we have a roof over our heads and food in the cupboards we are in the top 8% of the world wealth. We can afford to share out some of our good fortune and we will even get a shot of happiness as a result. Choosing to see the influx of refugees as an exciting opportunity rather than a threat could be fascinating. Celebrating a world in which Christians, Hindus, Seiks, Muslims, Jainists, Buddhists, Jews, Agnostics, Atheists and Pagans all have a safe place to live, could bring some much needed colour into our lives. Working together towards education for all, respect for each other and acceptance of our differences could open up whole new worlds to many of us.

A few new beliefs wouldn’t go amiss either. How about – What is in your interest is also in mine. Or – What serves you, serves me, serves all of us. Sounds better than shouting fearfully to keep everything for ourselves, doesn’t it?

Have a happy, compassionate and loving November.

Love Laurelle