On Monday, His Holiness The Dalai Lama took to Facebook and posted the following for his 4 million followers to see. It is a quote from his recent work, Beyond Religion: Ethics For A Whole World.
"All the world's major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether."
The 77-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader continues:
"Any religion-based answer to the problem of our neglect of inner values can never be universal, and so will be inadequate. What we need today is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without: a secular ethics."
The Dalai Lama has also spoken of the need to bring together science and spirituality in the face of modern suffering. In his 2005 book The Universe In A Single Atom: The Convergence of Science And Spirituality, he writes:
"The great benefit of science is that it can contribute tremendously to the alleviation of suffering at the physical level, but it is only through the cultivation of the qualities of the human heart and the transformation of our attitudes that we can begin to address and overcome our mental suffering... We need both, since the alleviation of suffering must take place at both the physical and the psychological levels."
I agree with the Dalai Lama. For instance, I have many friends who are agnostics or atheists, but are people of love, tolerance, and compassion. Indeed, I am part of a Unitarian congregation which has a fairly large humanist population, and they are a caring, loving, forgiving people. Religion does not own ethics. I would not denounce faith, nor would the Dalai Lama; it can be very important for us. But religion must no longer take credit for ethics.