Why does being virtuous have such a bad name? 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. It’s telling that ‘wicked’ has even become a term of praise. And yet the project of being good is as vital, or even more important, than the projectof being healthy. Yet while we have no problem with going to the gym to get fitter, it sounds deeply weird, even creepy, to suggest that one might ‘work’ at being better or nicer. It shouldn’t,which is what this list is about. Aristotle thought that being good meant practicing twelve key virtues, Christianity argued for seven; I’m proposing ten. There’s no scientific answer, but the key thingis to have some kind of list on which to flex our ethical muscles. It reminds us that we all need to work at being good, just as we work at anything else that really matters.
A MANIFESTO FORATHEISTS
by Alain de Botton
RESILIENCE. Keeping going even when things are looking dark; accepting that reversals are normal; remembering that human nature is, in the end, tough. Notfrightening others with your fears. EMPATHY. The capacity to connect imaginatively with the sufferings and unique experiences of another person. The courage to become someone else and look back at yourself withhonesty. PATIENCE. We lose our temper because we believe that things should be perfect. We’ve grown so good in some areas (putting men on the moon etc.), we’re ever less able to deal with things thatstill insist on going wrong; like traffic, government, other people... We should grow calmer and more forgiving by getting more realistic about how things actually tend to go. SACRIFICE. We’rehardwired to seek our own advantage but also have a miraculous ability, very occasionally, to forego our own satisfactions in the name of someone or something else. We won’t ever manage to raise a family,...