On Virtue

Several years ago, when Interfaith Action of Central Texas was initiating our "Red Bench" interfaith dialogue program, I suggested that we begin the program by focusing on the "virtues." I thought discussing things like gratitude, patience, forgiveness, and compassion would be welcoming to people of all faiths and none.

However, I found that many people had an almost visceral negative reaction to the word virtue. They thought of virtue as a kind of lingering puritanical and explicitly Christian wraith that needed to be exorcised. Weird. And very worrisome.

The following quote comes from an article on The School of Life. It offers a suggested list of virtues for our times. Bravo!

The full article is here.


"The Virtues Project comes as a response to the wave of discussion and feedback that followed the publication of my book, Religion for Atheists, and a growing sense that being virtuous has become a strange and depressing notion, while wickedness and evil bask in a peculiar kind of glamour. My ultimate aim for the project is that it ignites a vital conversation around moral character to increase public interest in becoming more virtuous and connected as a society.

In the modern world, the idea of trying to be a ‘good person’ conjures up all sorts of negative associations: of piety, solemnity, bloodlessness and sexual renunciation, as if goodness were something one would try to embrace only when other more difficult but more fulfilling avenues had been exhausted.

Throughout history, societies have been interested in fostering virtues, in training us to be more virtuous, but we're one of the first generations to have zero public interest in this. You're allowed to work on your body (going to the gym has very high status as an activity), but announce that you're going to work on being more virtuous, and people will be guaranteed to look at you as if you're insane."