Nov 29, 2020
7: From Devout Sunday School Teacher to Atheist, Vegan, Sentientist Academic and Author - Sentientist Conversations - John Adenitire
Play • 54 min

John shares his story, from being a devout Pentecostalist Sunday School Teacher in Nigeria to being a Sentientist, atheist, vegan academic and author. Video version here.

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. He is a cellist and dancer.

We discuss:

  • 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.

 John at QMUL. @JohnAdenitire. FBook.

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