Book Review: Multi-religious perspectives on a Global Ethic: In search of a common morality

Archives > Volume 19 (2022) > Issue 1 > Item 13

DOI: 10.55521/10-019-113

Renaud, M., & Schweiker, W. (Eds.). (2021). Multi-religious perspectives on a Global Ethic: In search of a common morality. Routledge.

Reviewed by J. Porter Lillis, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina at Pembroke

International Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics • Volume 19(1), Copyright 2022 by IFSW

This text may be freely shared among individuals, but it may not be republished in any medium without express written consent from the authors and advance notification of IFSW.

The book is an edited collection of essays by scholars of religion who consider the Global Ethic from specific religious traditions. The book begins with a primer on the history and development of the Global Ethic, an international effort at creating a worldwide (global) understanding and agreement on universal moral norms, common to both secular and religious traditions. This undertaking was begun at the behest of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, based on initial work by the Swiss theologian, Hans Kung. The project was set in motion by leaders of the Parliament when they heard Kung lecture at the University of Chicago. The Global Ethic is based on universally held moral commitments found in the world’s religions that are “purportedly held by people throughout the world…” (p. 1). Kung knew that religions have been the cause of violence, but he also held that they provide strong moral norms that shape and inform morality. Religions teach morals and ethics, and their rich texts and teachings are resplendent with stories and parables that shape and inform behaviors. “These…resources give the religious traditions a unique ability to shape the moral ethos of billions of practitioners” (p. 3).

The essays are written in secular terms, and they engage the Global Ethic by asking questions, testing assumptions, and in sum, providing a diversity of religious and scholarly perspectives on what the Global Ethic gets right as well as wrong, and where it could go. This collection has almost too many key terms and potential audiences to list them all. There are philosophical, humanistic, ethical, and theological audiences for whom this would work as a reader; it could be a companion for specific religious and moral perspectives, and for some undergraduates or graduates, as a text. There is a hope here, as well as a challenge. We are asked to re-contemplate the Global Ethic and are reminded that there is a common ground shared by the different religious traditions as well as the secular moral systems. The essays go beyond the general understanding of the Global Ethic that there are shared, universally held societal norms, and it investigates some of the arguments, minutiae, and aspects not covered by the broad strokes.

The essays share the uniqueness of the different cultures and religious perspectives. Some essays support the idea that there is, or could be a shared ethical commitment; others question, and even deny this is possible.