West London Humanists and Secularists

Ethical Jury - Meeting 31/03/10

These are a meetings in which a real-life moral dilemma of one of the people attending the meeting is discussed and an attempt made to reach a consensus as to what would be the best way of dealing with it. Ours was facilitated by Michael Imison who has held similar events for an number of Humanist groups. Michael is a trustee of the Brithish Humanist Assoociation

Five dilemmas were offered but the one chosen was a situation which must be relevant to many humanists and so was particularly interesting. In this case our member A had a sibling B who had recently "found God" and was greatly comforted by the prospect of going to heaven after a hard life. A had been having some intense discussions with B in the hope of replacing B's god delusion with a joy in the wonders of science and a fuller life. A's spouse was opposing this attempted "conversion" on the grounds that B should be left alone to be happy, even if deluded. A was beginning to have doubts.

Quite a lot of the discussion was directed at trying to agree what actually was a moral issue as opposed to tactics for dealing with a situation. This was not a straightforward question. There seemed to be general agreement that there could be circumstances when someone should just be left alone to think whatever pleases them. The acceptability of this, it was suggested, depends on whether other people are being affected adversely by B's belief.

When the time came to vote on whether A should continue with the "conversion" or not, there was a small majority in favour of ceasing. Michael Imison commented that ethical juries usually produce much greater consensus and asked the question, "Was your decision based on reason or emotion? ". About three quarters of those present said that their decision was emotional.

It is hoped that ethical juries will play an important part in future humanist activity and this session was certainly a useful step in trying to understand how to get the best from them.

P.V. - 13 April 2010