Morality without God

A new wave of secular books has challenged religion’s claim to supply meaning and morality. Simon Blackburn reflects on the root of human values

Simon Blackburn

The Grand Canyon: ageless, implacable, indifferent and sublime, says Simon Blackburn, and more worthy of our admiration than gods

When the sociologist Max Weber wrote of the disenchantment of the modern world in the late 19th and early 20th century, he struck a loud and resonant chord. Just look at the dog-eat-dog, bureaucratic, soulless world we live in. Ugh! How pleasant to dream of something better: a magical world unfolding in providential ways: perplexing, perhaps, and sometimes sad, but in the end benign, good and safe. How nice as well to be part of a congregation or church, united in celebrating these venerable enchantments through rituals, poetry and music, all expressing awe and wonder, gratitude, hope and consolation. On the one hand, meaningless bustle, absurdity and despair; on the other, peace, warmth and comfort. If these are the alternatives, the surprise is not that religions refuse to die, but that they ever become sickly.

The Joy of Secularism: 11 Essays for how we live now

Ed George Levine, (Princeton University Press, £24.95)

The Moral Landscape

by Sam Harris, (Bantam Press, £20.00)

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