Site Map The Secular Morality Project - Towards a Shared Morality

About the Project

What we hope to do
We live in a world where many are prepared to resort to violence in order to see their version of morality prevail. Rather than accept a world that often appears to be descending into chaos, this project seeks to reveal, wherever possible, morality that is widely acceptable - morality which leads to:

  • Personal happiness or well-being
  • Better personal relationships with other people
  • A more peaceful and happy society
It hopes to share the view that morality can evolve to be always relevant and helpful to mankind. It demonstrates that it is not necessary to belong to a particular, or indeed any, religion in order to have a set of morals that help the individual and society as a whole.

Pragmatic The project takes the view that the development of moral guidance is a practical issue. It expects to use ideas from business and government. As such it looks forward to producing something useful rather than lengthy (though possibly enjoyable) debate. There are many issues in morality that have been argued over for millennia by philosophers. In this project philosophical skills should be employed to help us avoid getting into unproductive arguments while maximising the logical consistency of what we say.
It will accept the limits of what can be shared. It should be fairly obvious from the evolutionary model of morality, that it is the principles that change slowest, followed by the policies. The lower levels of guidance are having to constantly change to remain useful. The first target should therefore be the principles. The probability of getting wide agreement as one goes into more detail rapidly decreases. If serious progress was made at the level of principles, this would be a great contribution and is a more than adequate ambition.
Independent of authority This project has no interest in people's claims for "authority", divine or otherwise. Claims that morals are independent of mankind will be ignored but such morals will still be examined as potential wisdom that can be shared. Moral guidance has been around for a very long time, and found useful in many cultures, will be valued.

Quality A moral process or tool will be deemed useful if it helps people come to what they feel are satisfactory conclusions in a good number of SMP Development Events.
Discovery Candidate processes and tools will be discovered by researching for moral wisdom already codified and by observation of moral decision making at our events.
Design Codification for new processes and tools is a design job and should follow good design principles:
  • Modularisation (in this case, separation of issues) should be sought. A good example is the Triax.
  • Use of abstractions (e.g. guidance) where they reduce conceptual clutter.
Products In the products of the project, simplicity and ease of communication will be sought:
  • Simplicity - There are good reasons why most religions encapsulate their guidance in some fairly brief lists, such as the Ten Commandments, the Triax or the Golden Rule. It greatly minimises the risks of mistranslation, it makes it much easier for people to remember the guidance when they are under pressure and makes it easier to verify that one is actually following a moral code. For this reason the project will seek similarly brief expressions of recommended moral guidance
  • Communication - A huge problem in sharing is that we don't all speak the same language, even when we appear to do so. Making sure that the message has got across will always be difficult and require ongoing attention. One thing is for certain. There is no place in this work for people who revel in making their meaning obscure or who enjoy showing off their ability to use unusual words.