Walls to Bridges: The Global Ethic

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What do the religions and ideologies of the world have in common? Why should we focus first on their similarities rather than their differences? What’s next in the evolution of the global ethic? Professor and theologian Hans Küng has devoted much of his life to answering these questions. A controversial figure, Küng achieved global notoriety in the late ’60s when he became the first major Roman Catholic theologian of the 20th century to question the notion of papal infallibility. For this, he was stripped of his license to teach as a Roman Catholic theologian but carried on teaching as a tenured professor of Ecumenical Theology at the University of Tübingen, Germany until his retirement in 1996. In the 1990s, Küng initiated a project subsequently referred to the Movement for a “Global Ethic” (“Weltethos” in the original German). After massive world-wide research into past and present ethical principles carried out with the collaboration of many scholars, including Professor Leonard Swidler—who continues their joint work—he spelled out clearly the foundational ethical principles that the world’s religions and ideologies, past and present, de facto held/hold in common, that is: The minimal code of behavior that everyone in fact accepts (e.g., “Do not lie, steal, kill innocent persons….”) Kung’s goal is to highlight how the great religions/ideologies of the world converge on moral values and how this has revealed minimal, but expanding standards: e.g., slavery once was, but no longer is ethically acceptable… equality for women is painfully on that expanding path now! This English translation of The Global Ethics Handbook is a culmination of the “Movement” Küng began in the 90s. In clear language, he describes his vision for a Global Ethic, and step by step he takes the reader on a journey through the essential aspects of a Global Ethic, including its social, political, legal, economics, communications, esthetics, and philosophical applications. It even describes his translation of the Global Ethic/Weltethos into musical compositions—indeed, a full-blown opera! While Engaging the Global Ethic is a broad and comprehensive work, the actualization of a Global Ethic is concrete–not abstract. Professor Küng’s vision into the future, built on the expanding Global Ethic is an inspiring read and call to action for all!

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