Hornsby Morality Essay

EDEXCEL A2 Religious Studies essay on whether morality is seperate to religion

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  • Created on: 06-11-07 15:06
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Examine the view that morality is not, as many believe, a part of religion but rather is
separate from religion.
In the view of most people, religion and morality have always gone hand in hand and are
regularly mentioned in the same breath sometimes in theories linking the two, others in theories
trying to separate them. There are three popular possibilities on how religion and morality relate
to each other.
The first of which comments on the opinion that morality is contained within religion and
God is the source of all morality as he is the source of religion. It is also said that God
communicates morality through revelation (for example prophets and scriptures). This thesis can
cause problems though, as it is not entirely clear which religion is being mentioned and which is
necessarily correct on a universal level. The second view explores the possibility that morality is
independent of religion and this is known as moral autonomy. Morality is said to have appeared
and evolved from an alternative source other than God such as psychological, societal or
biological basis. The final belief is that religion and morality are in some way linked both coming
from a source beyond the physical and material world. An example of this would be Plato's
world of forms, where everything is right and no immoral act takes place. This idea is probably
the most difficult to perceive as we have no knowledge that such a place exists, unless it is
merely a metaphor for our own minds.
David Elton Trueblood (19001994) was a professor of philosophy at Earlham
College, Indiana, U.S.A. Trueblood came up with a theory about how moral law first appeared.
He said that "there must be an objective moral law" meaning morality should be what is right
and wrong, not what people think is right and wrong. He continued by saying that if there was
no such law majorities would not agree on what is right and wrong, there would be no debates
on which laws are right or wrong, no person who had ever done anything would ever be wrong
because everybody would be right subjectively, no ethical terms would have any objective
meaning so no ethical questions could be discussed and there would be constant contradictions
as opposites would all be equally correct. He went on to say that the moral law could not have
came from individual humans or society as a whole as individuals sense conflict with it and
humanity falls short of it. He said that this moral law must come from a moral legislator because
it must have arrived from something with a mind because disloyalty makes no sense unless
personalities are involved and truth is meaningless to anything without a mind. Therefore, a
moral, personal mind is behind the law. We call this God. God exists.
Peter Vardy criticised Trueblood's argument, saying that it presents an obviously true
assumption of something that is highly debatable namely the existence of moral objectivity.
Furthermore, many philosophers, sociologists and psychologists maintain that morality is
something developed by human beings and cultural relativism is a factor as well as social
reciprocity. In my opinion, Trueblood provides the explanation for the foundation of moral law
however, I believe that it has developed over the years with influence from different factors.
Immanuel Kant (17241804) did not put forward a moral argument as he regarded
such an exercise as impossible. He did however think that God was a postulate of practical
reason in other words, a logically necessary being of morality. Kant said that it is reasonable to
act upon our experience in the absence of philosophical proof and all humans ought to be moral
and do their duty. He went on to say that all humans have experienced a sense of moral
obligation and the Summum Bonum (highest good) is where virtue is rewarded with happiness.

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He said that everyone seeks the Summum Bonum and the universe is fair so everyone must be
able to achieve this. The rewarding of virtue with happiness is not achievable by ourselves so it
is necessary to postulate a God who rewards our virtue with happiness and it is necessary to
postulate a life after death where we can be rewarded.…read more

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