DO ATHEISTS AND HUMANISTS HAVE SACRED VALUES?
After I read the following lines written by Daniel Dennett, I wondered if i have any "sacred values".
Do you have any?
In spite of religious connotations of the term, even atheists and agnostics can have sacred values, values that are simply not up for re-evalution at all. I have sacred values - in the sense that I feel vaguely guilty even thinking about whether they are defensible and would NEVER consider abandoning them in the course of solving a moral dilemma. My sacred values are obvious and quite ecumenical: democracy, justice, life, love, and truth (in alphabetical order).
Daniel Dennett: "Breaking the Spell", page 23)
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I am not even sure that the things mentioned by Dennett are really "values". Only " justice" seems to be a value to me, but "life" or "love" ?? Aren't they just good things to be cherished and preserved?
As a secular skeptic I have difficulty with words like sacred, sacrosanct, sanctified, holy and the demeaning concept of the term, worship. In an ideal universe these words, among many others, do not exist. We can, and probably should, have well-founded values, such as those espoused by Dan Dennett, but to encumber these principles with the adjective 'sacred' suggests that they may be beyond discussion and reconsideration.
I think that I am probably quite reflexive socially with other people if that is correct terminology - If someone is ok with me I am ok with them - when they decide to make the first move to do the dirty on me I just ignore them forever, as life is too short, especially as I am already 70 y.o.
I live in a complex of 26 flats for older people and we have friendship groups. I have been attacked in here three times now, so all is not great sailing and the management leaves a lot to be desired - So thank heavens for the community police force. I think live and let live is a good ideal but not always available.
So it seems Dennett means sacred as unchangeable. I would mean it as holy. I suppose it would mean both for a Christian.
I'm an agnostic raised with the Judeo-Christian culture. It was inculcated in me as a Christian who took the Bible seriously. So my values have changed. One thing that has changed for sure is the 'value' of stoning adulterers and homosexuals, although to be fair Christians have moved on from that too in the sense that they leave the judgement to God, who scripture says will not treat them kindly in the end.
Here are what I would suggest are Christian values, called fruits in Galatians 5:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.
The obvious thing about these values is that they are very human values too but I won't go into why the apostle Paul thinks they come from God's spirit.
I couldn't tell half the time whether my impulse to follow these values is from my culture or from secular motivation.
Sacred also means to revere or be in awe of. It's one of those highjacked words that has had enhanced meaning by association. Reverence or sense of awe doesn't have an exclusivly religious connotation. The philosophical challenge comes when this interpretation of sacred is placed against its antonym 'profane' which reduces to 'outside the temple'
Scared as a word does not and cannot have have religious connotations, lexicographically it is a religious word.
Sacred from Latin sacrare literally meaning to designate as religious or holy and therefore coming from the same root as sacramental and sacrosanct and sanctified it actually separates and designates something as religious or as holy and dedicated to a deity rather than secular.
It is therefore completely impossible to an atheist to hold anything sacred, it is like asking how many corners can a circle have.