John shares his story, from being a devout Pentecostalist Sunday School Teacher in Nigeria to being a Sentientist, atheist, vegan academic and author.
In these Sentientist Conversations, we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?” Don’t forget to like the video (if you do) and subscribe while you’re there!
If you prefer listening to watching, the audio of our conversation is now out on our podcast:
John is Strategic Lecturer in the School of Law and a Fellow of the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences at Queen Mary University of London. Prior to joining QMUL he was a Lecturer in Law at the University of Birmingham. He completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law and Fitzwilliam College. He has taught and researched at Cambridge, Durham, Birmingham, the UCL Constitution Unit, the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and the UK Commission on a Bill of Rights. He is a cellist and dancer.
- John growing up in Nigeria, then Italy in an evangelical, pentecostal family (both parents are missionaries and reverends) and community
- Being a sunday school teacher and devout believer
- Challenging those beliefs as a teenager, both re: evidence and ethics (e.g. rejecting religious homophobia)
- The rich integration of Nigerian culture, racial identity and religion and how that made leaving religion behind a difficult struggle
- Finding the courage to be open with parents who are very deeply involved with the church
- How some religious communities accept non-believing, “cultural” community members while others reject those who drop their supernatural beliefs
- Veganism being seen as a rejection of a culture rather than an individual moral choice
- How having freedom, time and distance from our culture can help us assess and improve our worldview
- Value as the foundation of ethics, not religion. Value comes first
- A pluralistic conception of value from the perspective of each individual: community, family, friendship, relationships, experiences
- Sentience as a sufficient ground for considering a being valuable because they have a perspective. Things can go better or worse for them. Morality is caring about that perspective of others
- Whether non-sentient beings have intrinsic or just instrumental value
- Is beauty of value even if no sentient ever experiences it? Let’s not destroy the Mona Lisa just to be safe
- The danger of bio/eco centrism and environmentalism neglecting or even harming sentient beings while trying to protect non-sentient things
- The full richness of sentient experience. Not just pleasure and pain – but aethetics, awe, wonder, connectedness and love
- The importance of setting a philosophical baseline of moral consideration for all sentients. But how even that baseline is the product of deep philosophical thinking by intellectual giants (e.g. Bentham)
- Why most of the 8 billion people on the planet disagree with Sentientism
- The importance of ensuring that our confidence in naturalism doesn’t lead to our own dogma or closed-mindedness or arrogance
- The importance of humility and receptiveness and open-mindedness and constructive conversation
- Compassion even for people you disagree with
- Basing our ethics on a naturalistic understanding of sentience and sentient beings
- How to get to a Sentientist future. Facts and logic won’t be enough… our emotional reactions come first, philosophy follows
- Empathy as a way to engage people emotionally
- Helping people be more ready change by setting a good, “normal” example
- Making better ethics the easier choice
- Once people have taken easier, better ethical choices they might upgrade their ethics
- Freedom of belief, but not freedom to use those beliefs to harm
- When you see something as more important than suffering and death, you tend to get quite a lot of suffering and death
- Law is there to restrict freedom to protect others
- We already grant rights to corporations and rivers, why not extend them to non-human animals?
- How the law and rights fields can help drive positive change.
Sentientism is “Evidence, reason and compassion for all sentient beings.” You can find out more at sentientism.info.
Everyone interested, Sentientist or not, is welcome to join our community groups. Our main group is here on FaceBook.
Many thanks to Graham Bessellieu for his post-production work on this video. Go follow him (& maybe work with him!) at @cgbessellieu.