A program of the Center for Inquiry
For Immediate Release: July 9, 2014
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
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Definitions of right and wrong don’t come to us from God, but neither are they open for anyone to define as they wish. In the latest issue of the secular humanist magazine Free Inquiry, Ronald A. Lindsay—a philosopher, lawyer, and president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry—argues that morality is an institution that fosters trust, peace, and stability in human society…with no religion required.
In a cover story excerpted from his forthcoming book The Necessity of Secularism: Why God Can’t Tell Us What to Do, Lindsay confronts the misconception that while atheists can behave morally, they have no way to judge their actions without God to lay down the law in advance. Human beings, regardless of religion, are able to distinguish right from wrong without any help from a supernatural being. “If we have such independent standards,” writes Lindsay, “then we don’t need God to tell us what to do. We can determine what is morally right or wrong on our own.”
Morality does not then become open-ended, however, but it rather serves the necessary functions of fostering collaboration and cooperation and improving the human condition. “When we obey norms like ‘don’t kill’ and ‘don’t steal,’ we help ensure the security and stability of society,” says Lindsay. “It really doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.”
Also in this issue: Arthur Caplan asserts that the true beginning of “personhood” of a fetus can be determined by science; responding to Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book on mystical experience, Tom Flynn urges seculars to forego use of the word transcendence; and Free Inquiry concludes its series of reader-submitted essays on journeys away from faith.
The August/September issue of Free Inquiry is available on newsstands now.
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Free Inquiry is a bimonthly magazine, published by the Council for Secular Humanism, featuring thoughtful and provocative commentary from such leading political and social commentators as Arthur Caplan, Greta Christina, Nat Hentoff, and Russell Blackford. Launched in 1980, Free Inquiry has a paid circulation of approximately 34,000 worldwide.