Humanist leads time for reflection

March 21, 2017

Gordon MacRae, Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland, today addressed MSPs in the daily Time For Reflection at the Scottish Parliament.

You can watch Gordon’s address on the Scottish Parliaments website and the full text has been published below:

Presiding Officer, Members of the Scottish Parliament, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

“Do not unto another that you would not have him do unto you. Thou needest this law alone. It is the foundation of all the rest.”

This was the teaching of Confucius in 500 BC. From the Greek philosophers of the next four hundred years, through the first nation thinkers in Australia, right up to the Abrahamic religions of more recent years, this, the Golden Rule, has prevailed.

I find it fascinating that wherever you go on this planet, this common basic ethic of reciprocity manifests itself in nearly every human society. Communities, who have never seen people with a different colour skin. Tribes, and clans, separated by vast mountains and dark oceans. People of faith and of none each arrived at the same conclusion.

“Treat others as you would want to be treated.”

The Golden Rule inspires me as a Humanist. Because it is universal, because it is the product of lived human experience over many millennia, and because it requires me to think about others and their feelings. The Golden Rule is the clear default position for moral decision making the world over. Shared by all, owned by no one. Truly universal.

It is also what inspires me about this place. That universal, mutual objective you all share no matter the colour of your rosette – to make life better for the people who put you here. For you have the opportunity to shape lives, to create change, recast society for the better. You may pull in different directions but you each share a vision that we can build a better society.

And of course that vision is best forged in the heart of debate. Politics should be about difference, about the battle of ideas. But you, the politicians can also be about what unites us. You can inspire change by appealing to our common good. Confucius held up the Golden Rule as the only law anyone ever truly needed. Now things really would get quiet in here if that were the case. But it can be the foundation for how our laws are approached.

There are nearly as many versions of the Golden Rule as there are societies in the world. And I hope you will find the one that speaks most strongly to you. For me I find the Humanist perspective does it for me:

“One world, one life, one humanity.”

Thank you.

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