The Code for Global Ethics

(Morality Without Religion)

Chronique de Rodrigue Tremblay

"A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers — and this is the basis of all human morality."
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) 35th U.S. President

"The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a wide-spread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible."
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)


This book is a moral compass for anyone who wants to follow its principles in order to think and act as a humanist.

In December 2004, I was awarded the Condorcet Prize of political philosophy by the Quebec Secularist Movement. On this occasion, I was asked to give a short lecture on the sources of human morality. During my research, while reading numerous secular and religious books on morality, I was astounded to find how restrictively the concept of morality has been applied throughout history. I was struck by the fact that in most cases, especially as it relates to 'religious morality', the principles espoused by organized religions were devised to apply to a particular ethnic group, nationality, or to insiders of a religious denomination, and were not at all meant to be universal in their application. It seems that ancient religious or political leaders used religious laws and precepts to increase the social cohesion of their own group or community, while at the same time emphasizing their differences with, and often their hostility toward, other groups and other communities. This is the main reason why I think religious morality is fundamentally flawed. Too often, it leads to an ethnocentric or hostile moral system.

One can easily arrive at such a conclusion after reading the so-called "holy books" supporting the monotheist religions of Judaism (the Torah), Christianity (the Bible) and Islam (the Qur'an or Koran).

In these three 'revealed' books, one discovers, for example, that while it is written "do not kill", what is really meant is "do not kill the insiders". But anything goes regarding the "outsiders"—the neighbors, the infidels, the non-believers, the mecreants, the pagans, the enemies. Thus, in the book of Deuteronomy 20:16-17 (Bible: New King James Version), the 'chosen' Hebrews are ordered to commit the genocide of other tribes: - "But of the cities of these peoples which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive,—but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, just as the Lord your God has commanded you." Similar passages can be found in the Islamic Qur'an. This may explain why some deeply religious peoples have no qualms about killing their enemies, or anybody who does not belong to their group of insiders, however they define themselves.

The second major flaw of religious morality is the subtle distinction that it often introduces between individual or personal morality, and public morality. There is one morality for ordinary people in their daily lives and another morality for leaders and government agents acting in their official capacity. This moral dichotomy may explain more than anything else why humanity is still saddled with murderous wars. There are two recent examples of such moral ambiguity. The first is personified by Osama bin Laden, the self-proclaimed religious leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist movement, who harbors two moralities simultaneously: one drawn from the Qur'an enjoining him "not to kill", and another one also inspired by the Qur'an that says that it is good to kill innocent people "for the cause of God (Allah)." The second example is a self-proclaimed deeply religious American president, George W. Bush, who presumably still considered himself religiously moral after ordering the onslaught of a war of aggression against Iraq, in 2003, that resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands of people; men, women and children.

Why such a morality à-la-carte? My answer is that the medieval religious concepts of morality are fundamentally inadequate for a humanity living in the modern integrated world and on an ever-shrinking Planet, a planet that requires global solutions to global problems. They belong to another age, when each human group had a circumscribed geographical horizon and when the moral rules for survival were more primitive and more cruel. Over the coming centuries, moral rules must adapt in order to maximize the chances of humanity's survival in the new environment of global economic and political cooperation and in the face of the new challenges of global climate changes.

That is why we need a new humanist moral code, one that transcends traditional religious morality. Some may argue that universal humanist principles of morality are self-evident and need not be presented in an orderly fashion. —I disagree. Because I believe that such principles are superior to any other system of moral principles, especially those based on the flawed concept of ethical duality or of group morality, they should not only be proclaimed, but they should also be compared to other moral codes.

Therefore, this book represents such an effort of presentation and comparison, and is a direct extension of my Condorcet Prize acceptance speech, in which I identified the main humanist moral principles, inspired not by narrow religious dogmas but by universal humanist values.

In the 21st century, we can no longer depend upon gods and prophets for guidance. We must look into ourselves to discover the rules for living together in peace and mutual understanding.
— Warning: This book may change your outlook on life and your way of thinking.

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