Are Religion and Morality Connected?• Ethical obligations, duties or requirements presuppose an authority behind them – What is the source of authority – God?• Religious believers argue punishment will be dealt out to wrong doers in the afterlife, if not in this worldly life – Eschatological justice.• However, existentialists may argue without God morality is meaningless and ‘everything is permitted’. If this is true God is the guardian of morality. Without God moral chaos or anarchy would ensue.
Relationship between Religion and Morality – 3 Views1. Depends on religion2. Independent of religion3. Opposed to religion
1. Depends on religion• Moral codes are derived from religion.• Moral opinions judged against religious teachings.• Authority of God, teachings from sacred texts, leaders and tradition – sources of religious authority.• Even secular society adopts or is influenced by religious moral teachings ie Seeks guidance from religious leaders in moral matters eg Genetic Engineering/abortion.• Suggests there is some connection.
Religious leaders• Expected to have extremely high standards of morality.• Exposed and condemned by media when falling short of morally high standards.
Divine Command Theory• Sacred texts – Exodus in the Old Testament ie The 10 Commandments (decalogue).• Gods will alone decides what is right and wrong• Human reason has no authority.• Gods authority is absolute.• All humans can do is accept Gods authority and respond either rightly or wrongly.• Sin is disobedience to the word of God.
DCT (cont’d)• Obedience is commanded.• Punishment and the hope of reward are the reason that it is ‘good’ to obey Gods commands.
Problems• Humans obeying Gods moral law out of fear of punishment are acting out of self preservation or hope of reward, rather than because it is moral• Kant argued this should not be the motivation for moral goodness.• Also - if ‘morally good’ means ‘what God has commanded’ we end up with a circular and trivial claim.• Eg What God commands is what God commands and there is no separate or distinct character (substance) to morality that humans can recognise.
Furthermore• If divine commands come from a transcendental supremely powerful being – how can humans even conceive of being able to assess whether it is morally good or not.• Worship becomes passive and no relationship with God.• If obedience to DCT is rewarded in the afterlife – what about the inequality of godly people in this life?
Aquinas and Kant’s views on the relationship between religion and morality
Aquinas• Aquinas arguments for God based on Plato’s eternal forms.• Goodness found in human beings in this contingent world are reflections of the supreme goodness of God.• Goodness on earth reflects Gods morally good perfection.• Beings in this life reflect different levels of this moral goodness.
Kant• For morality and its goal the Summom Bonum to be meaningful, God must be a necessary postulate of morality.• The Summum Bonum is not achievable in this life, therefore the existence of God is necessary for the goal of morality to be realised.• There has to be a ‘holy author’ of the world who makes possible the ‘highest good’.• Reason dictates that morality demands his existence.
Conscience• God given or the ‘voice of God’• ‘the inner aspect of the life of an individual where a sense of what is right and wrong is developed’• Joseph Butler – conscience directs us to live harmoniously with our competing drives of concern for self and concern for others• J. H. Newman – conscience reveals to us a higher authority than any natural one, so therefore it must have a supernatural origin of ultimate moral goodness.• Feelings of guilt, shame, remorse are all testament to the idea that there must be a higher power to which we relate these feelings to.
Criticisms• Freud – the conscience is a moral policeman – the internalised ‘super ego’ that controlled and socialised human moral behaviour. Capable of doing much damage to our mental health.• The ‘super ego’ keeps the ‘id’ in check and is the result of upbringing and environment.• Conscience frustrates genuine moral development and leads to universal neurosis
Social conditioning• Conscience has no supernatural origin but is the product of social conditioning.• Right and wrong are internalised responses to our authority figures in childhood.• We learn right and wrong from parents, teachers and the environment we’re brought up in.• Some argue conscience and morality have a biological origin which serves an evolutionary function to benefit living harmoniously with others.
2. Critiques of relationship between religion and morality• Moral teaching based on scripture is unreliable because sacred texts are culturally relative and problems of interpretation.• Is punishment a suitable motivation for observing Gods commands – is this genuine goodness?• Demands of religious morality are sometimes counter intuitive – Eg God commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.
Euthyphro’s Dilemma• Plato’s first investigation into the illogical relationship between an all powerful God and the nature of ‘goodness’.• Does God command x because it is good?• Or is x good because God commands it?• Is morality independent from God?, if so God is not almighty. If morality is dependent upon what God commands, then morality becomes arbitrary and random.
Consider the case of Abraham• The command to sacrifice Isaac – This poses serious moral difficulties and is also counter intuitive to what we understand as being moral.
Job and Jephthah• Jephthah has to sacrifice his own daughter in a bizarre twist of fate because he made a deal with God to give him a great victory in battle.• Job is punished by God in an attempt to prove to Satan Jobs unrelenting faith in the face of such suffering.• Stories like these in the Old Testament appear to go against universal understandings of morality – clearly counter intuitive
3. Morality is opposed to religion R. Dawkins• Dawkins – ‘The root of all evil’ religion leads to evil.• A malignant virus that affects human minds.• An indulgence of irrationality.• Uses examples of hell houses in the US to show how religious fervour is whipped up by condemning homosexuals and women who have had abortions to eternal suffering in hell.• Dawkins subscribes to a biological and evolutionary account of morality.• Morality is part of what it means to live in a society.
F. Nietzsche• Morality is a disease.• It is the curse of a herd mentality.• It denies mankind striving to reach their ideal state of ‘ubermensch’.(superman)• Man has to overcome himself.• Christianity is a disease on humanity Eg Feelings of guilt, shame,remorse are forced upon us from the pulpits of the churches. We are made to feel bad for being human and fulfilling our desires.• The noble man lives life beyond ‘good’ and ‘evil’.
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