I've been thinking a lot recently about how I can bring up my child to be a moral person, without (to paraphrase Douglas Adams) all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace. Hyperspace being, in this case, organised religion.
See, I love many things about Christianity (specifically Church of England flavoured Christianity, as that was the faith I was born to). The architecture kicks ass. I like the smell of many of the churches and cathedrals I've visited. There is a sense of serenity and peacefulness that comes with being in those places. I'm also a big fan of many of the moral lessons taught both by extension of bible verse and by the community directly involved in, and surrounding, the machinations of the church.
I'm really not a big fan of the particular brand of fairy tales that they preach, however, and this is one of the two major turn-off points for me about most every organised religion (the second being the inevitable group of crazy fundies who kill, maim, hurt and oppress each other in the name of their god as though these things are good things). I just can't, in all good conscience, tell another human being (in this case, my child) that they should believe in something just because I do - and especially because in this case, I'm pretty certain that I don't.
My own faith (or lack of) aside, one thing that I can do is come up with my own, codified list of things that I do believe should be practiced by my child, ideally with use cases and justifications. I'm going to leave aside the majors like murder, theft and ox coveting for now; while I truly believe that they're great moral rules, there's no value in me listing them.
so, here we go.
1. Always be polite.
use case: When buying a bus ticket, or groceries in a shop, say "I'd like (my item), please". When presented with the item or exiting the bus, say "thank you" to the relevant person.
why: Politeness is social grease. Just like grease lubricates a mechanism, so politeness makes social interactions run smoother. It costs you only the time to say it, and could make a huge difference to the other person's day.
2. Tell the truth.
use case: Someone asks you if they look good in that dress. They don't. Tell them that (in your opinion) they don't look good. They then put on a different dress, and they look great in it. They ask you again. Tell them that they now look great.
why: Truth is your currency of trust. Trust is hugely valuable. If people don't want to hear the truth, then they shouldn't ask you the question - this is their problem, not yours.