The one thing needful

“David” (in quotation marks because we have lots of Davids, so it might be confusing if I just said David, as if you would know which one) asked in a comment the other day

Ever wonder what your “sacred cow” is? I have no idea what mine is.

I replied

No idea? Really? I can think of several at least semi-sacred cows of mine. Egalitarianism for one; separateness of persons for another; human rights for another.

He said that wasn’t quite what he meant, and did I mean just irrational and personal and impossible to articulate. I said no but

I know they are basic commitments that are at least somewhat immune to disagreement, and that the reasons I can give for them are well short of knock-down arguments.

I didn’t say, but will say now:

I am committed to them, I don’t want to give them up, I would resist giving them up.

What are yours? It might be interesting to make a list of core sacred cows. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is probably a good source for many of them.

Another of mine is that the idea of a “god” we have a duty to worship and obey, despite some good aspects (inspiration, aspiration, motivation), is more bad than good. It makes people slavish and it distorts their views of morality and other people and this life.

On the other hand, what if it’s something better than that? And not a person? What if in fact it’s one or more of my sacred cows? What if it’s equality, or justice, or peace?

That’s different. It’s probably what humanists are getting at when they say (with varying degrees of exasperation) that atheism is not enough, and we need something “positive.” True enough. Freedom from the totem god is not enough.

What should it be? Justice? Equality? Kindness? Peace? Siblingity? Solidarity?

Maybe solidarity – which perhaps presupposes all the others.

In which case I’ve arrived back at Richard Rorty, which seems ironic.

63 Responses to “The one thing needful”