A chance meeting with the Editor has led to an invitation to write an occasional column in this treasured newspaper. It is more than a decade since he first published my opinions. Perhaps “a restart” will offer a further layer of wisdom!
That said, it is rather presumptive that the first offering is an “author’s review” of my most recent book (2014) – an attempt to draw together strands of spirituality, religion and applied ethics representing the authentic personal, political and ecological philosophy I now embrace.
Ethics: with or without God is a text for a broad audience: the community of those who quest for the common good, whatever their faith or non-faith. Indeed, the case is made for a shared ethic, and a convergence between so called sacred and secular values. This volume is intended to be a resource for those working to build a more just, global, human community and those whose ecological convictions commit them to the defence of life on Earth. In other words, the heart of this text is a call to practice eco-justice, nurtured in spirituality (not necessarily linked to religion).
However, twenty-first century humanity faces enormous ethical challenges and it is folly to sideline the great religious traditions and their institutions in addressing these challenges. At the same time, we need to recover and discover a spirituality which will support us all in meeting these challenges, regardless of religious allegiance. Ethics: with or without God addresses the possibility of a spirituality and morality for today’s world, and the deconstruction of traditional Christianity that may entail.
I presume to speak on behalf of progressive Christianity. While acknowledging the centrality of “the Jesus story” and personally valuing the Judaeo-Christian heritage, I reject traditional theism and challenge claims about the uniqueness of Christian ethics. The primary agenda for religious progressives ought to be a social ethical one, grounded in the simple reality that love and justice are at the heart of good religion and good ethics.
The book opens by engaging the problematic relationship between ethics and religion and whether beliefs matter. The final chapters explore manifestos for transformative action such as The Earth Charter and The Charter for Compassion, concluding with a summary in the form of a Letter to my Grandchildren.
Some local West End identities have lent endorsements to this book. Father Peter Kennedy of St Mary’s in Exile community has kindly opined: As always, Noel Preston demonstrates his wide breadth of knowledge across many disciplines. Moreover, he writes in a style that is accessible not only to academics but more importantly to the reader who has, at best, a working knowledge of the themes he explores…Ethics: with or without God is both challenging and inspirational.
Environmental advocate and historian Drew Hutton pithily adds: If I were to be a Christian, Noel Preston is the kind of Christian I would want to be.
Ethics; with or without God is published by Morning Star Publishing (2014) and is available at the Avid Reader Bookshop, West End, St John’s Cathedral Bookshop or from the author (firstname.lastname@example.org)