From the Facebook Files

A Sefer Torah, the traditional form of the Heb...

A Sefer Torah, the traditional form of the Hebrew Bible, is a scroll of parchment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the words of one self-declared atheist in a superb debate on Facebook:

“How useful is the Bible in guiding our moral decisions?”

That’s a fair question. Indeed, it is worth widening it to “How useful is any textual guide to morality, ethics, or personal behavior?” Whether you follow Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, Buddhavacana, Shruti, the Avesta, or Peter Singer‘s Practical Ethicsthe question is the same. How useful is any of these?

The answer is that the core text of any ethos is only as useful as you make it. My family and I find Torah useful every single day, often many times a day. But I know plenty of my fellow tribesmen who do not. And I know the more I study, the more I apply it.

But the question cannot be answered by anyone who does not know because they have not made a good  faith effort to try.

Judeo-Christian Ethics and Sustainability

China hands even the most grizzled conservative an opportunity to contemplate our growing need to be better custodians of the planet. Along those lines, Worldchanging did an interesting interview with Jonathan Watts, author of the recent bestseller When a Billion Chinese Jump. Naturally, the topic of sustainability came up, and Watts’ comments are interesting, especially toward the end.

JW: Looking for a solution to the predicament we are in, of living unsustainably, the importance of values comes up again and again. The focus in China is mainly on science and technology, on hardware – on things that if you drop them will hurt your toe. The importance of values hasn’t really kicked in, but it’s absolutely essential. Where do you get these values? Clearly western values haven’t stopped the west from screwing up the environment. So, it’s worth looking to China’s philosophical and cultural roots.

Which got me thinking (being that I live in China but I am from a country that is still skittish about making any major commitments to the environment), perhaps it is time for non-Chinese to look into our philosophical, cultural, and religious roots for answers to why we might need to change our behavior toward the planet.

Those of you who know me understand I am nobody’s idea of a tree-hugger. But there is so much sound and fury around climate – often pitting the eco-zealots against the self-interested – that I am starting to think that it is time to go back to a more fundamental source for some perspective in the debate.

A few places I am looking for ideas and guidance: