Vintage Philip. A must read. he commences
Myself and Philip, in Sheffield
I am a biblical scholar, I adhere to no religion, and I do not think supernatural beings exist, or if they do, that we have any mutual business. According to one often-voiced opinion, I can therefore have no moral values, no ethics. But I can and do, and these are in fact shared with most people, including those who are religious. They include individual human freedom under the rule of law, democracy, equality of race, colour, sex and religion, and freedom of speech. These values reject theft, murder, tyranny, discrimination, intimidation, colonization and slavery. None of these values can be shown to derive from religion, and certainly not from the Bible—on the contrary, many religions and their scriptures are opposed to them. Neither Yahweh nor Allah can be quoted as bestowing any of them on humans. From where do they come, then? Quoting the American Declaration of Independence, we might say that ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident.’ But we haven’t always seen them as such, so more likely they have partly been learned, by experience and through reflection. As a species, I think we have developed more refined moral codes, whether or not we live by them any more obediently. But whatever their source, the fact is that we have a consensus in most countries and societies (and articulated by the United Nations) that these are shared human values.
Why does he write such?
The values that the State of Israel are currently violating are shared by secular and religious people alike. But for me this is not just a political issue but one of professional ethics. I have already been drawn into the battle by being called ‘anti-Semitic’ for purely scholarly opinions, from those who bracket out Judaism and Israel from any general rule about academic freedom. Others have had their tenure threatened on such grounds (and in past times I might have been sacked because of pressure by the Church!) I believe that as human beings and as scholars, we should try to live and work by our shared values. I wonder whether other scholars who maintain these secular values feel the same way about visiting Jerusalem, or even travelling to Israel. If not, I would like to know why, and especially if they think their profession has had any influence on their attitude.
And he concludes
An open discussion is long overdue, partly in the context of the continuing debate about secular values and biblical studies, and partly because the Bible and politics have never stood apart from each other—and why should they? May I remind you that humanitarian values have usually won, even by somewhat paradoxically coopting the Bible to their cause. But with that I have no quarrel!
Read the entire piece, and think about what Philip is suggesting.