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Are morality and religion connected

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  • 1. RS: Ethics: Morality and Religion Are morality and religion connected?Ethical obligations (moral duties) are often thought of as commands withauthority behind them. However, what is the source of that authority? Is itenough to say that the only reason for them being moral obligations is thatthey have been commanded by God?The nature of the relationship between religion and morality, indeed whetherthere is one at all, is a vital issue for religious believers. If at least part of whatit means to believe in God is to live in obedience to his will. Braithwaite claimsthat to be religious and to make religious claims is to be committed to a set ofmoral values. Much religious language is the language of morality and soreligious believers have committed themselves to particular ways of behaving.This includes refraining from some actions and fulfilling others. However, howdo we know what believers are committed to? Is the connection betweenreligion and morality and God and morality the same? Is it imaginable thatreligious morality maybe far removed from the moral commands of God, or isit possible to be obedient to the commands of God without being part of areligious moral community?Religious believers may argue that even if a person gets away with the mostoutrageous crimes on earth, he or she will be punished by God in the afterlife(as those who have resisted the temptation to do wrong will be rewarded), andso even if it is possible to avoid earthly punishment it is not in theireschatological interest to do so.Eschatology is a study of the end times, heaven, hell, death and judgement.There is a close connection between issues of religious morality andeschatology because hell is traditionally associated with punishment for wrongdoing and heaven with reward for goodness, although most Christians wouldargue that entrance to heaven is not achieved simply by doing good works.On the other hand, an existentialist view maintains that if there is no God tosupport the demands of the moral law, then there is no threat of punishmentor promise of reward, and so morality is meaningless. Effectively without Godeverything is permitted. In this case, God acts as the guardian of morality,saving humans from falling into moral chaos. Dostoevsky thought of God as the
  • 2. RS: Ethics: Morality and Religionlynchpin of order and morality in society. Without God all hierarchy collapsesand everything could be permitted. He was troubled by suffering but unable toreject belief in God because God is necessary for morality.Perhaps God does not have to actually exist for him to be the source ofmorality and the means of controlling moral behaviour: the idea of God isenough to keep moral order. This is an authoritarian view, the notion that Godwill punish immorality and that the incentive for moral goodness is to avoidGod’s anger.

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