Most religions would have us follow a set of paternalistic, ancient texts that are full of conflicting messages and supposedly inspired by a powerful supernatural being and written when knowledge of the laws of nature was virtually non-existent. We are, on our own, capable of providing an appropriate set of guidelines that allows each of us to seek happiness while living harmoniously with each other and with nature. Inherently, most people are basically good. We don't need the fear of the wrath of a supposed supernatural being to motivate us to act on our positive impulses. There are a basic set of guidelines that reasonable people can agree to and follow in living their lives. The following are some of those precepts, developed and matured over many generations by varied cultures across our history:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
We all have the freedom to choose our actions, but we also bear the responsibility for the consequences of actions that we take.
Do not discriminate against others based on sex, race, culture, sexual orientation, color, religion or personal beliefs.
Treat the environment and nature with respect and be active in preventing harm that would jeopardize future generations' ability to enjoy nature's beauty and bounty.
A person who is able should earn their way through life and not feed selfishly on the efforts of others.
A person should strive to be virtuous. Virtues are positive traits considered to be inherent in morally good people. While not always easy, an individual should aspire to following a set of virtues such as:
Politeness - being courteous toward others. It is synonymous with good manners and is the foundation for the other virtues we should aspire to.
Prudence - thinking before you act. And not just thinking, but thinking about the right thing to do and the potential consequences when we do or do not act.
Courage - to do the right thing. Courage represents self-sacrifice, taking a risk for some other's benefit and not selfishness.
Justice - ensuring that everyone gets their fair and proper share. Being just is also standing up for people's rights.
Generosity - giving something of yourself to others, something that has value and is something others lack. Generosity is the opposite of selfishness. It is a realization that we have something of value to give, so it also reflects our own sense of self-worth.
Compassion - a feeling of concern for the suffering of others. The feeling of compassion drives a desire to act to help those in need, to ease their suffering.
Mercy - forgiveness. When you show mercy, you put aside hate and vengeance.
Gratitude - being grateful for the positive in our lives, the things we have and the benefits we receive. Gratitude is probably the virtue most closely linked to our overall well-being and happiness. By showing gratitude, we are likely to increase our happiness and enthusiasm for life.
Humility - an acknowledgement of our own limits. It is an understanding that our place in the world, while important, is limitied.
Tolerance - our capacity to respect other people's opinions, practices and beliefs.
Love - the affection we feel for one another, providing a personal level of care and kindness.Love is vitally important to our well-being. It underpins our positive relationships with others and is therefore a prerequisite for happiness.
Honesty - being truthful, sincere and trustworthy. It is the foundation upon which positive inter-personal relationships are built and maintained.
Self-Discipline - the ability to control one's temper, properly channel passion and think before responding to impulses. It is also about self-control, resisting temptation to deviate from our core set of values.
Curiosity - it is curiosity that drives our ability to learn, providing an antidote for ignorance and countering the dangers posed by blind faith.
Skepticism - going hand-in-hand with curiosity, it is our filter, the check in helping us evaluate which information is actually worthy of consideration and belief.
Together, we need to strive to build a strong sense of community for all people regardless of their individual beliefs, that supports each person's need to lead a happy, productive life. A strong sense of community has been shown to be associated with improved well-being and feelings of increased safety and security, and promotes active civic participation and a greater sense of civic responsibility.